Thursday, January 31, 2013

MRS. SORKEN & THE DUCK VARIATIONS • Mustard Seed Theatre

Christopher Durang's brief play, Mrs. Sorken, was plucked from a collection of one-act parodies featured in his self-titled,  Durang/Durang, and it kicks off the show, serving as a nice introduction to the second play, David Mamet's, The Duck Variations.

After the pre-show announcements, Mrs. Sorken (Peggy Billo) is asked onstage to address the audience about theatre, its Greek roots and what attracts theatergoers to drama.  Once she realizes that she's lost her notes, she has to wing it, rambling in a free-association kind of way.  She begins with the etymology of the word drama, linking it to its Greek roots, and just about anything else that pops into her head.  She also talks about her own personal theatre preferences, announcing that she doesn't like the "f" word, plays that are over 4 hours, and Shakespeare -- if it's too hot and she has to pay.  Ha!  Little peeks into her own slightly unfulfilled life with Mr. Sorken work their way in as well.

Peggy Billo (Mrs. Sorken)
Photo credit: John Lamb
You get the idea that she regrettably doesn't get out too much with the Mr., admitting that this little lecture is the highlight of her life.  Billo is endearing and inviting as Mrs. Sorken, and if you keep you eyes peeled, you can catch her taking her seat among the audience before the start of the play.

The second play, the oddly un-Mamet like, The Duck Variations, has a couple of oldsters, Emil (Richard Lewis) and George (Bobby Miller), getting together at a local park to read the paper, drink coffee, and talk -- a conversation that centers around the ducks that they've set their eyes on.  Their shared admiration of the duck gives way to observations and ruminations about everything from the environment and society, to friendship and mortality.  Both men are opinionated, but George is a bit of a blowhard, and Emil seems a little more thoughtful.  Their give-and-take also further sheds light on their individual idiosyncrasies, and imparts a sometimes humorous, and ultimately sobering commentary on their own place in the world.  Lewis and Miller, as easy as a pair of slippers, comfortably disappear into their roles completely.  

Bobby Miller (George S. Aronovitz) and
Richard Lewis (Emil Varec)
Photo credit: John Lamb
With Jent's direction, and the across the board talent onstage, it's an entertaining evening that leaves you a little introspective.  The simple set, with a backdrop of the blue sky and green hills of the park, is courtesy of Bess Moynihan, as well as the lighting design.  Kareem Deanes' sound design adds a lot of atmosphere to the second play, and Emma Bruntrager's costume design is spot-on.

Check it out -- it's playing until the 10th.


MRS. SORKEN & THE DUCK VARIATIONS 

Mrs. Sorken written by Christopher Durang
The Duck Variations written by David Mamet
Directed by Deanna Jent
Mustard Seed Theatre, 6800 Wydown Blvd.
through February 10 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm

Cast:
Peggy Billo* (Mrs. Sorken), Richard Lewis (Emil Varec) and Bobby Miller* (George S. Aronovitz).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic design by Bess Moynihan; lighting design by Bess Moynihan; costume design by Emma Bruntrager; sound design by Kareem Deanes; stage manager, Josie Zeugin.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA? • St. Louis Actors' Studio

Edward Albee is considered one of this country's most influential playwrights, winning three Pulitzer Prizes for Drama.  Who doesn't love Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, right?  He's also the author of A Delicate Balance, Three Tall Women, and over roughly 25 other plays.  The Goat, debuting in 2002, is the story of a middle-aged married man who falls in love with another woman, but in this case, the other woman is a goat.  Sylvia the goat.  So, there's that.  Now, many plays about infidelity involve couples who aren't happy to begin with, but Martin (John Pierson), an accomplished architect, and his wife Stevie (Nancy Bell) truly love each other, have both been faithful (until recently) and are completely happy, physically and emotionally, in their relationship.  That is until Martin's carryings-on with Sylvia come to light, shattering his wife and their teenage son, Billy (Scott Anthony Joy).  Buckle up, right?

With a seemingly absurd premise, the play is about more than what initially meets the eye.  Although it's spiked with humor and Albee's razor-sharp wit and dialogue, this play, in the end, shows itself to be about tolerance, trying to examine exactly what the nature of love is, and who gets to decide that, and how it is decided.  The play's sub-title happens to be "(Notes toward a definition of tragedy)".  

John Pierson (Martin) and William Roth (Ross)
Photo credit: John Lamb
So, Martin has just received the Pritzker Prize for architecture and while his longtime friend, a television producer named Ross (William Roth), is taping an interview with him, he cuts it short.  Martin's distracted.  After a bit of hemming and hawing, Martin tells Ross about his infidelity.  Ross is understandably dumbstruck.  He's so alarmed, he feels that Martin's wife Stevie must be told about the affair.  Once Stevie finds out about Martin's unsettling love affair via a letter from Ross, she reacts the way you'd think anyone would -- with complete horror.  It's like she's woken up in a Greek tragedy.  (Oh, and the word tragedy comes from the Greek "goat song".  Along with the play's sub-title, I find that really interesting…)  Anyway, at one point, struggling through the details of the first time her husband and Sylvia go "to bed together", she loudly corrects him with, "you mean to stall together".  During the explanation she lets loose a primal howl that viscerally conveys her disgust and deep sense of betrayal.  Talk about feeling something in your gut...

Nancy Bell (Stevie), Scott Anthony Joy (Billy)
and John Pierson (Martin). 
Photo credit: John Lamb
The reaction of their son Billy, who happens to be gay, is explored further where more light is shed on the nature of relationships, and the arbitrary decisions about where lines get crossed, and if people really mean it when they say, "love is love".  These questions, in the second act, are more deeply plumbed.

Wayne Salomon directs with a real understanding of what this play is trying to get at, while making sure all of the moments of levity land squarely.  The success of this play is also reliant on the actors, and the performances of Pierson and Bell work brilliantly.  They don't camp it up, but play their characters of husband and wife with complete sincerity and skill.  When Martin describes how he met Sylvia and the epiphany that he discovered when he realized that there was a profound and confounding connection made, you believe him.  As Stevie eventually calmly listens to all of the sordid details, spilling out into their nice living room, the tension erupts periodically as she smashes various bowls and vases against the wall.  Laughs and chills.  William Roth's Ross, a somewhat sympathetic friend of the couple, and Scott Anthony Joy as their son Billy, handle their confrontations with Martin well, but the added dimension of the son's sexuality adds an unexpected dynamic.

Nancy Bell (Stevie) and John Pierson (Martin).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Patrick Huber's lights and contemporary set smartly represent the comfortable home of the family.  Teresa Doggett's costume design handsomely informs the characters.

This play is some good stuff.  It'll give you laughter in places where you don't expect them, and plenty to chew on on your way home.  Check it out!


THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA?

Written by Edward Albee
Directed by Wayne Salomon
The Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave.
through February 3 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm

Cast:
John Pierson* (Martin), Nancy Bell* (Stevie), William Roth (Ross) and Scott Anthony Joy (Billy).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic and lighting design by Patrick Huber; sound design by Robin Weatherall; costume design by Teresa Doggett; stage manager, Amy J. Paige.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Inaugural St. Louis Theater Circle Award Nominations

*****UPDATE*****

02.13.13

*St. Louis Theater Circle Awards:  New date, new location!


Many of you folks know that the Kevin Kline Awards, part of the Professional Theatre Council of St. Louis (PTC), a local organization formed with the intention of honoring excellence in St. Louis professional theater, announced their hiatus from the scene last year, and as a result, no Kevin Kline Awards will be presented for 2012.  But, Mark Bretz (Ladue News) and Judith Newmark (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) hatched an idea to let the reviewers in town come up with their own awards.  Truth is, this town is soaked with too many quality productions offered by quality companies to let a year go by with no recognition.  So, the St. Louis Theater Circle was born -- made up of critics who cover theater here.  And personally, I'm honored to have been included.

The inaugural St. Louis Theater Circle Awards presentation, to be held *March 18, 2013 at the Florissant Civic Center, will celebrate theatrical achievements in the year 2012 in local professional theater as recognized by the St. Louis Theater Circle.  Tickets will be $10 apiece and can be reserved by contacting stltheatercircle@sbcglobal.net.

A couple of days ago the nominations for the inaugural St. Louis Theater Circle Awards were announced.  Here they are, and congratulations to all of the nominees!  Yay theatre!!

NOMINEES FOR MUSICALS

Outstanding Production
Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stages St. Louis
Chicago, The Muny
Spring Awakening, Stray Dog Theatre
Sunday in the Park with George, The Rep
Sweeney Todd, Opera Theatre Saint Louis

Outstanding Director
Justin Been, Spring Awakening, Stray Dog
Michael Hamilton, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stages
Dennis Jones, Chicago, The Muny
Scott Miller, High Fidelity, New Line Theatre
Rob Ruggiero, Sunday in the Park with George, The Rep

Outstanding Actor
Ron Bohmer, Sunday in the Park with George, The Rep
Ryan Foizey, Cry-Baby, New Line
Rod Gilfry, Sweeney Todd, Opera Theatre
Antonio Rodriguez, Urinetown, Stray Dog
John Sparger, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, New Line

Outstanding Actress
Erin Davie, Sunday in the Park with George, The Rep
Natascia Diaz, Chicago, The Muny
Tara Kelly, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Muny
Jennifer Theby, Urinetown, Stray Dog
Karen Ziemba, Sweeney Todd, Opera Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor
Dean Christopher, Chicago, The Muny
Mike Dowdy, Cry-Baby, New Line
Zachary Farmer, High Fidelity, New Line
Ryan Foizey, Spring Awakening, Stray Dog
Steve Isom, My One and Only, Stages

Outstanding Supporting Actress
Terrie Carolan, Cry-Baby, New Line
Beth Leavel, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Muny
Suzanne Menzer, Sweeney Todd, Opera Theatre
Deborah Sharn, Urinetown, Stray Dog
Anna Skidis, Spring Awakening, Stray Dog

Outstanding Acting Ensemble
Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stages
Chicago, The Muny
High Fidelity, New Line Theatre
Sunday in the Park with George, The Rep
Urinetown, Stray Dog

Outstanding Set Design
Adrian Jones, Sunday in the Park with George, The Rep
Michelle Sauer, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Stray Dog
Scott Schoonover, High Fidelity, New Line
Michael Schweikardt, The King and I, The Muny
James Wolk, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stages

Outstanding Costume Design
Lou Bird, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stages
Brad Musgrove, My One and Only, Stages
Alexandra Scibetta Quigley, Spring Awakening, Stray Dog
Alejo Vietti, Sunday in the Park with George, The Rep

Outstanding Lighting Design
Tyler Duenow, Spring Awakening, Stray Dog
Steven Gilliam, Chicago, The Muny
John Lassiter, Sunday in the Park with George, The Rep
Matthew McCarthy, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stages

Outstanding Choreography
Robin Michelle Berger, Cry-Baby, New Line
Dennis Jones, Chicago, The Muny
Dana Lewis, My One and Only, Stages
Lara Teeter, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Muny
Chris Bailey, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Muny

Outstanding Musical Direction
Stephen Lord, Sweeney Todd, Opera Theatre
Adaron “Pops” Jackson, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Stages
Chris Peterson, Spring Awakening, Stray Dog
Justin Smolik, High Fidelity, New Line
F. Wade Russo, Sunday in the Park with George, The Rep

NOMINEES FOR DRAMAS

Outstanding Production
Angels in America, Stray Dog Theatre
Clybourne Park, The Rep
Good, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Black Rep
The Hairy Ape, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Director
Gary Bell, Angels in America, Stray Dog
Deanna Jent, Going to See the Elephant, Mustard Seed Theatre
Timothy Near, Clybourne Park, The Rep
Ed Smith, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Black Rep
Milton Zoth, Good, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Outstanding Actor
John Hickok, The Invisible Hand, The Rep
Michael Scott Rash, 9 Circles, R-S Theatrics
Michael James Reed, A Steady Rain, The Rep
Ben Watts, Angels in America, Stray Dog
B Weller, Good, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Outstanding Actress
Nancy Bell, Clybourne Park, The Rep
Rachel Fenton, Oleanna, HotCity Theatre
Rachel Hanks, Angels in America, Stray Dog
Patrese McClain, No Child, The Black Rep
Kirsten Wylder, Bug, Muddy Waters Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor
Larry Dell, Killer Joe, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Greg Fenner, Angels in America, Stray Dog
Terry Meddows, Way to Heaven, New Jewish Theatre
Joshua Thomas, Othello, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
David Wassilak, Angels in America, Stray Dog

Outstanding Supporting Actress
Teresa Doggett, Good, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Rachel Fenton, Killer Joe, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Laura Kyro, Angels in America, Stray Dog
Elizabeth Ann Townsend, The Maids, Upstream Theater
Kelley Weber, Lost in Yonkers, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Acting Ensemble
Angels in America, Stray Dog
Clybourne Park, The Rep
Going to See the Elephant, Mustard Seed Theatre
Good, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
The Hairy Ape, Upstream Theater

NOMINEES FOR COMEDIES

Outstanding Production
Jacob and Jack, New Jewish Theatre
The Comedy of Errors, The Rep
The Divine Sister, HotCity Theatre
The Foreigner, The Rep
The Violet Hour, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Director
Paul Mason Barnes, The Comedy of Errors, The Rep
Edward Coffield, Jacob and Jack, New Jewish Theatre
Suki Peters, The Compleat Wks of Wm Shkspr (Abridged), St. Louis Shakespeare
Marty Stanberry, The Divine Sister, HotCity Theatre
Edward Stern, The Foreigner, The Rep

Outstanding Actor
Ryan DeLuca, Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Rep
Greg Fenner, Fully Committed, Stray Dog
John Flack, The Divine Sister, HotCity
Bobby Miller, Jacob and Jack, New Jewish Theatre
John Scherer, The Foreigner, The Rep

Outstanding Actress
Emily Baker, Season’s Greetings, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Sarah Cannon, Dinner with Friends, Dramatic License Productions
Tarah Flanagan, The Comedy of Errors, The Rep
Meghan McGuire, Talley’s Folly, New Jewish Theatre
Carol Schultz, The Foreigner, The Rep

Outstanding Supporting Actor
Matthew Galbreath, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Black Rep
Chopper Leifheit, The Divine Sister, HotCity
Casey Predovic, The Foreigner, The Rep
Antonio Rodriguez, The Violet Hour, Max & Louie Productions
Lenny Wolpe, The Comedy of Errors, The Rep

Outstanding Supporting Actress
Sarajane Alverson, Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs, West End Players Guild
Lavonne Byers, The Divine Sister, HotCity Theatre
Teresa Doggett, Season’s Greetings, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Shanara Gabrielle, The Comedy of Errors, The Rep
Kirsten Wylder, The Divine Sister, HotCity Theatre

Outstanding Acting Ensemble
Jacob and Jack, New Jewish Theatre
The Comedy of Errors, The Rep
The Divine Sister, HotCity Theatre
The Foreigner, The Rep
The Violet Hour, Max & Louie Productions

COMEDIES and DRAMAS

Outstanding Set Design
Jason Coale, The Maids, Upstream Theater
Dunsi Dai, Imaginary Jesus, Mustard Seed Theatre
Scott Neale, Clybourne Park, The Rep
Eric Paulson, The Comedy of Errors, The Rep
John Stark, Way to Heaven, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design
Felia Davenport, Good, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Sarita Fellows, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Black Rep
Daryl Harris, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Black Rep
Alexandra Scibetta Quigley, Angels in America, Stray Dog
Margaret E. Weedon, The Comedy of Errors, The Rep

Outstanding Lighting Design
Steve Carmichael, The Hairy Ape, Upstream Theater
Tyler Duenow, Angels in America, Stray Dog
Phil Monat, Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Rep
Nathan Schroeder, Talley’s Folly, New Jewish Theatre
Michael Sullivan, Way to Heaven, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Sound Design
Justin Been, Angels in America, Stray Dog
Zoe Sullivan, Going to See the Elephant, Mustard Seed
Rusty Wandall, A Steady Rain, The Rep
Robin Weatherall, Good, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Robin Weatherall, Way to Heaven, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding New Play

Ayad Akhtar, “The Invisible Hand,” The Rep
Nancy Bell, “The New World,” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Jaysen Cryer, “Stupefy! The 90-Minute Harry Potter Live,” Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre
Deanna Jent, “Imaginary Jesus,” Mustard Seed
Stephen Peirick, “Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs,” West End Players Guild


Founding members of the St. Louis Theater Circle include Steve Allen, Stagedoorstl.com; Andrea Braun, The Vital Voice and Playback; Mark Bretz, Ladue News; Bob Cohn, St. Louis Jewish Light; Chris Gibson, Broadwayworld.com; Harry Hamm, KMOX; Gerry Kowarsky, Two on the Aisle; Chuck Lavazzi, KDHX; Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Andrea Torrence, Stlouistheatresnob; Lynn Venhaus, Belleville News-Democrat; and Bob Wilcox, Two on the Aisle.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

GOOD PEOPLE • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep. continues its season with David Lindsay-Abaire's sincere and timely look at the underclass.  It centers on Margaret (Denise Cormier), who's a little down on her luck.  Not that she seems to have had much of that to begin with.  But is it luck, circumstances of fate, or a willingness to work hard for what you want?  

Margaret's a "Southie" -- residing in a working class south Boston neighborhood and known as Margie with a hard "g" to her friends.  When the play begins, she has been called out into the alley behind the Family Dollar store where she works by her younger boss, Stevie (Aaron Orion Baker), to be fired.  Margie's been repeatedly late, and Stevie is starting to catch some heat from his boss.  She tries to explain to him that along with the unreliability of public transport, her adult and developmentally disabled daughter, Joyce, requires a sitter when she's away, and her caretaker isn't always on time.

Denise Cormier (Margaret), Andrea Gallo (Dottie)
and Elizabeth Ann Townsend (Jean).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Still, after many warnings for her tardiness, Stevie has to let her go.  Margie shares her troubles with her landlady, Dottie (Andrea Gallo) and longtime friend Jean (Elizabeth Ann Townsend).  Dottie (the aforementioned unreliable caretaker) is considering the possibility of renting out Margie's place to her own son, while supplementing her own income by constructing little rabbits made from flower pots.  Jean suggests that she pay a visit to an old boyfriend from high school -- Mikey (R. Ward Duffy) for any possible job opportunities.  Mikey has made it out of the old neighborhood and is now earning a nice living as a doctor.  Desperate to find a new job, Margie drops by his office in the city.

Denise Cormier (Margaret) and Ward Duffy (Mike).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Their visit starts with an uneasy bit of catching up, and modest but pointed sparring.  Margie accuses Mike of being "lace curtain" -- someone who has forgotten their roots.  Mike is offended by this, but admits that he doesn't have any jobs available.  He eventually and timidly invites her to his birthday party that his wife is throwing him at their house.  He suggests that there may be some attendees who might have a job for Margie.  Jean is all for the idea -- going so far as to suggest that Margie tell Mike that her daughter is his.  You never know, right?

Once Margie gets to the party in upscale Chestnut Hill, she learns that it's been cancelled, but Mike and his wife Kate (Zoey Martinson) insist that she stay anyway.  The awkward vibe during Margie's visit to Mike's doctors office continues here.  The differences between Margie and Mike's places in life now bubble and stew just under the surface while she's there for the visit, and after a period of time, sparks start to fly.  Funny how these two people choose to remember their past…  But it's these straightforward confrontations of the past that serve as the boiling point in the second act.

Ward Duffy (Mike), Zoey Martinson (Kate)
and Denise Cormier (Margaret).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Mindfully directed by Seth Gordon, the look and feel of the play ring true.  Denise Cormier as Margaret goes from proud to vulnerable, provoking anger and sympathy with smooth strokes.  Andrea Gallo as Dottie and Elizabeth Ann Townsend as the brassy Jean provide much flavor to the proceedings.  The roles of Stevie and Kate (Aaron Orion Baker and Zoey Martinson) are limited, but Baker provides an honest and well meaning feel to his role as a dollar store employee tasked with the job of firing someone in his own neck of the woods, and Martinson contributes much to the dynamics of the second act showdown.  Kent Dorsey's scenic design offers rotating sets revealing Dottie's run-down kitchen, a bingo hall, and Mike's uptown office, as well as his posh home -- all perfect in tone with the addition of Michael Lincoln's lighting design.  Rusty Wandall's sound design includes a variety of working class rock music and the costumes by Myrna Colley-Lee provide a lot of information about the characters.

Congress may be wrestling with the dire economic realities of the country, but families like Margaret's have been struggling to survive all their lives.  The vast divide between "the haves" and "the have-nots" gets a wonderfully entertaining and engaging production here.  Check it out -- it's playing until the 23rd.


Andrea Gallo (Dottie), Elizabeth Ann Townsend (Jean),
Denise Cormier (Margaret), and Aaron Orion Baker (Stevie).
©Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
GOOD PEOPLE

Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Seth Gordon
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through January 23 | tickets: $19.50 - $79.00
Performances Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesday to Friday at 8pm, selected Wednesdays at 1:30pm, Saturdays at 5pm, selected Saturdays at 9pm, Sundays at 2pm, selected Sundays at 7pm

Cast:
Aaron Orion Baker* (Stevie), Denise Cormier* (Margaret), R. Ward Duffy* (Mike), Andrea Gallo* (Dottie), Zoey Martinson* (Kate), Elizabeth Ann Townsend* (Jean).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic design by Kent Dorsey; costume design by Myrna Colley-Lee; lighting design by Michael Lincoln; sound design by Rusty Wandall; stage manager, Champe Leary; asst. stage manager, Tony Dearing.

ShareThis

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...