Monday, December 14, 2015

DEVIL BOYS FROM BEYOND • Stray Dog Theatre

You won’t find any elves or sugary confections in Stray Dog Theatre’s traditionally, non-traditional holiday show. What you will find is Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott’s camp-tacular, 1950’s retro-styled close encounters caper featuring a tightly knit group of actors, sly creative contributions, and a welcomed getaway if you’re already sick of the commercial holiday season. One glance at that artwork over there to the left, and you’ll get what I mean.

It’s 1957, and there’s some weird stuff going on in Lizard Lick, Florida. Florence Wexler fills us in on all of the details at the start -- about how her husband disappeared after colorful lights appeared in the sky, and an unidentified flying object crashed into the shed. Florence is played splendidly by Michael Juncal, who's great in drag, and sports one of the most delicious Southern drawls I’ve ever heard. This incident has gotten the attention of some New York City newspaper slickers.
Matilda Van Buren (Sarajane Alverson),
Gregory Graham (Stephen Peirick)
and Lucinda Marsh (Michael Baird).
Photo credit: John Lamb
The “New York Bugle” editor, Gilbert Wiatt (Jonathan Hey), photographer Gregory Graham, an unsuccessfully recovering alcoholic, (Stephen Peirick), and his ex-wife, the fast-talking, underpaid, award winning reporter, Matilda Van Buren (Sarajane Alverson), have all heard this tale before, but after acquiring some physical evidence, they decide to head back to the sticks hoping for a big story to keep The Bugle’s subscriptions alive. Then we have Lucinda Marsh (wonderfully played by Michael Baird.) She’s a rival reporter who wrecked the marriage of Matilda and Gregory. While hoping to get a scoop on the story herself, she’s also hoping to worm her way back into the arms of Gregory. Matilda, Gregory and Lucinda spend their time in Lizard Lick at the motor-lodge that Dotty (Teryl Thurman) owns. She’s exceptionally lustful, and she and Florence seem to have had their husbands replaced with strapping substitutes, Harry Wexler (Ryan Wiechmann) and Sheriff Jack Primrose (Brandon Brendel.)

Matilda Van Buren (Sarajane Alverson),
Florence Wexler (Michael Juncal)
and Harry Wexler (Ryan Wiechmann).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Director Gary F. Bell plumbs all of the tomfoolery that is to be had in the play, and the actors seem to be having a great deal of fun. Hey as the hardened newspaper editor makes a great counter to his more emotional staff -- Peirick’s cowed Gregory, and Alverson’s steel spun reporter, Matilda. With melodramatic flourishes and style, Baird is fantastic as Lucinda Marsh, and Juncal gives an authentically trashy performance as Florence. Thurman adds a quiet hilarity to Dotty Primrose, as she hunches on Gregory at their first meeting, and Wiechmann and Brendel’s hunky Plutopians are well played.

Tyler Duenow’s lights give a nod to the alien aspects of the show, Justin Been’s sound, particularly the added embellishments to Drew Fornarola and John Fontien’s sound design, is spot-on, and Been’s scenic design gives us a perfect postcard backdrop. Eileen Engel’s costumes and Priscilla Case’s wig design round out the creative elements.

Matilda Van Buren (Sarajane Alverson),
Gilbert Wiatt (Jonathan Hey), Florence Wexler (Michael Juncal)
and Dotty Primrose (Teryl Thurman).
Photo credit: John Lamb

For a fun, riotous night at the theatre where 1950s sci-fi B-movie spoofs are the rule of the day, check out “Devil Boys from Beyond” at Tower Grove Abbey -- just leave the kids at home for this one.


DEVIL BOYS FROM BEYOND

Written by Buddy Thomas, Kenneth Elliott
Original Score and Sound Design by Drew Fornarola
Directed by Gary F. Bell 
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through December 19 | tickets: $20 - $25
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Saturday, December 19 at 2pm

Cast
Florence Wexler: Michael Juncal
Gilbert Wiatt: Jonathan Hey
Gregory Graham: Stephen Peirick
Matilda Van Buren: Sarajane Alverson
Lucinda Marsh: Michael Baird
Dotty Primrose: Teryl Thurman
Harry Wexler: Ryan Wiechmann
Sheriff Jack Primrose: Brandon Brendel

Creative
Artistic Director: Gary F. Bell
Costume Designer: Eileen Engel
Lighting Designer: Tyler Duenow
Production Manager: Jay V. Hall
Property Designer: Jay V. Hall
Scenic Artist: Gary Karasek
Scenic Carpentry: Richard Brown, Doug Burge, Kathleen Dwyer, Corey Fraine, Melanie Kozak, Paul Troyke, Kate Wilkerson
Scenic Designer: Justin Been
Sound and Light Board Operator: Justin Been
Sound Designer and Original Song: Drew Fornarola
Sound Designer: John Fontien
Sound Design Additions: Justin Been
Stage Manager: Justin Been
Wardrobe Assistant: Jay V. Hall
Wig Stylist: Priscilla Case

Sunday, December 6, 2015

ANIMALS OUT OF PAPER • R-S Theatrics

Playwright Rajiv Joseph’s 2008 drama places a delicate art at its center. Origami, with its precise execution of intricate folds, makes a fitting prism to look through at three people, suffering through fragile times, who hold the art dear -- whether through hard work or natural ability, and as a method of creativity, or escape.

When Ilana (Teresa Doggett) hesitantly opens the door to let in Andy (Andrew Kuhlman), he’s soaking wet from the pouring rain outside, and a little starstruck and giddy, meeting a fellow origami artist -- and Ilana is one of the best. But because of her two month old divorce and her beloved dog running off, she’s in no mood for company, and hasn’t felt any passion for folding paper in awhile, though her studio where she now lives is cluttered with all kinds of paper -- origami paper, newspapers, and Chinese takeout boxes. Andy, a high school calculus teacher, is there on official business as the treasurer for the American Origami organization. He’s the kind of guy who literally counts his blessings, writing them down in a little notebook with listings that now number up to the thousands. Ilana’s in there more than a couple of times, which she discovers when Andy leaves his book behind and Ilana takes it up as her latest reading material.

Ilana (Teresa Doggett) and Andy (Andrew Kuhlman).
Photo credit: Michael Young
Andy, though he’s embarrassed and now in a position where his origami crush knows just about everything about him, urges her to advise a student of his, Suresh (Ethan Isaac), a brilliant and promising student of origami, but also a posturing, brawling teenager with his own troubles -- hinted at through bits of cell phone conversations with his father, recently widowed, assuring him that he’ll home soon. The timid sparks that develop between Ilana and Andy shift when she invites Suresh to an origami convention in Nagasaki instead of Andy, and the under-the-surface volatility between the three come out in funny and shatterable ways.

Ilana (Teresa Doggett) and Suresh (Ethan Isaac).
Photo credit: Michael Young
Todd Schaefer’s keen direction of the dynamics onstage makes the most of each setting, only slightly undermined by a couple of lengthy scene changes. Doggett as Ilana, leery and bare at the start, makes you want to cheer her on as she slowly makes her way to pursuing her passion again, with a couple of potential love interests. Kuhlman’s awkward but lovable Andy is sweetly innocent in the face of heartbreak, and Isaac, though initially covered in a veneer of teenage bravado and isolation with his iPod never far, eventually makes a rewarding turn.

In R-S Theatrics’ season closer, the story, like origami, is seemingly simple, but shrewdly complex. Only one more chance to check it out at The Chapel.


ANIMALS OUT OF PAPER

Written by Rajiv Joseph
Directed by Todd Schaefer
The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive
through December 6 | tickets: $18 - $20
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm

Cast
Ilana: Teresa Doggett
Andy: Andrew Kuhlman
Suresh: Ethan Isaac

Creative
Stage Manager: Sean Michael
Assistant Stage Manager: Sophia Gotto
Assistant Stage Manager: Nick Raghebi
Scenic Designer: Keller Ryan
Lighting Designer: Nathan Schroeder
Costume Designer: Ruth Schmalenberger
Sound Designer: Mark Kelley
Properties Master: Heather Tucker
Production Manager: Christina Rios
Artistic Director: Christina Rios
Managing Director: Heather Tucker
Associate Managing Director: Elizabeth Van Pelt

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