Sunday, May 15, 2016

THE TWO CHARACTER PLAY • The Midnight Company

“The Two Character Play,” one of the many offerings during this year’s inaugural Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, is one of Williams’s later works, and performed in The Learning Center on Westminster Place, formerly known as the Wednesday Club. In the late 1930’s, the Wednesday Club's stage was the home of the Mummers of St. Louis theatre troupe, where a few of Tennessee’s early plays were debuted. It’s poignantly fitting that this play is performed in this creaky old house, where Williams found his beginnings.

Felice (Joe Hanrahan) and Clare (Michelle Hand) are siblings and actors, preparing to perform one of Felice’s own works to, possibly, an audience, in a run-down theatre in a nowhere town. Abandoned by their company, with no home except for the theatre, it doesn’t take long to see signs of damage between these two. Their ex-colleagues called them “insane.” After Felice goes through what seems like a long-practiced ritual of preparing his sister for a performance, the play-within-the-play begins -- about a dysfunctional brother and sister, no less. In the play’s play, the siblings are survivors of a shared childhood trauma that leaves them constantly on a precipice, where the prospect of just leaving their house brings on a burden of apprehension. In some of the humorous moments that are sprinkled throughout, their characters’ lines are forgotten and improvised, and aside from a southern dialect put on for the “performance,” the line between the characters’ plight and the actors’ realities is razor thin to the point of invisibility, with looming shadows left by a confined, stress, drug, and alcohol-addled existence.

Clare (Michelle Hand).
Photo credit: Ride Hamilton
Experimental for its time and 20-plus years after Tennessee Williams's better known works, “The Two Character Play,” earlier known as “Out Cry,” is considered another one of his highly personal compositions, and it couldn’t be in better hands than those of Hanrahan and Hand. With tone perfect direction by Sarah Whitney, these two bring out the strands of humor balanced with the weight of heavier notes, where the lines of “laughing at” and “laughing with” are successfully, clearly, and uncomfortably drawn. Mark Wilson’s scenic design is authentically appointed with a random feel that suits the play. Wilson also contributes an evocative lighting design, with sound design by Jimmy Bernatowicz and costume design by Liz Henning.

Don’t look for a neat bow at the end of this one, but do enjoy top-notch performances in a properly worn space uniquely tied to its playwright. And do it soon -- the Festival (sadly) ends today (Sunday). 3pm performance, so get your tickets this very minute!

Clare (Michelle Hand) and Felice (Joe Hanrahan).
Photo credit: Ride Hamilton
The Midnight Company will extend the run of its production of THE TWO-CHARACTER PLAY, which just played Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.
May 27 & 28, and June 3 & 4, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Winter Opera St. Louis, 2322 Marconi, 63110, on The Hill 
Tickets $15 through

Seating Very Limited Reservations Strongly Recommended


Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Sarah Whitney
The Learning Center (Formerly the Wednesday Club), 4504 Westminster Place (*Winter Opera St. Louis, 2322 Marconi, 63110, on The Hill)
through May 15 (*extended to June 4) | tickets: $23.50 (*$15)
Performances Friday at 8pm, Saturday and Sunday at 3pm

Felice: Joe Hanrahan
Clare: Michelle Hand

Scenic and Lighting Designer: Mark Wilson
Stage Manager and Costume Designer: Liz Henning
Sound Designer and Assistant Stage Manager: Jimmy Bernatowicz

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Equally Represented Arts is back with another enveloping, innovative production that places Shakespeare’s Macbeth as its spine, and includes excerpts ranging from Emily Post's Etiquette and 1950's advertisements, to Sun Tzu's The Art of War, with a little Book of Revelation thrown in for good measure. Whaaa?! And you know what else? It works. Created by an ensemble of theatre artists and accented and complemented by ERA’s trademark movement and choreography, these dissimilar texts are carefully and shrewdly woven through one of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragedies, resulting in a surprising harmony between the Bard’s story of murderous ambition, and our modern, media-soaked, consumer-driven world of consumption. It’s also quite a blast.

Welcome to the Macbeth’s for a dinner party that you won’t soon forget.

Upon arrival you’re given a birthday card, a drinking glass and a script for a little non-intimidating read-along action later on. After being welcomed by the party hosts, you’re seated, while the rest of the cast strolls around in character with the men carrying umbrellas like swords at their hips. The seating is along opposing walls of the chapel, or you can be seated at the long dining table, impressively and formally appointed courtesy of scenic designers Kristin Cassidy, Wilson Webel, and director Lucy Cashion. 
Ellie Schwetye, Carl Overly, Jr., Rachel Tibbetts, Mitch Eagles,
Nic Tayborn and Maggie Conroy. 
Photo credit: Wilson Webel
Etiquette queen, Emily Post (Ellie Schwetye), kicks things off by going over a few preliminary dinner party do's and don'ts along with proper cigarette techniques for ladies. From there, we transition straight into Shakespeare’s witches (Schwetye, Maggie Conroy and Rachel Tibbetts) planning to meet Macbeth (Mitch Eagles) and Banquo (Nic Tayborn), laying out the prophecies that set the Macbeths' on their murderous path. It’s all the more fascinating if you have a basic knowledge of Macbeth, but ERA’s production will grab your attention regardless. There’s something about the merchandising of Dial soap and household cleaners butted up against a play where you know some really messy, bloody business is about to commence -- the blood here represented by shredded newspapers.
ERA’s “Trash Macbeth”
Photo credit: Wilson Webel
Did I mention there’s also string? The measured cutting of string by the witches early on ends up with them stringing out a cat's cradle styled web that the Macbeths ultimately find themselves caught up in. Love...

Eagles gives a terrific performance as Macbeth, with an equally strong performance by his instigator and partner in crime, Tibbetts as Lady Macbeth. Schwetye is a perfectly prim Emily Post, and Conroy is solid as an ill-fated, very pregnant (cigarette smoking) Lady Macduff. Carl Overly, Jr. shines as Macduff, particularly after learning of the fate of his family, and Tayborn is an engaging Banquo. There’s some very cool accompanying jazz, doo-wop and snappy ad tunes music throughout, courtesy of composer and musician, Joe Taylor. In addition to the cast, music and scenic design, Meredith LaBounty’s costume design features the women in 50’s style dresses (Lady Macbeth sports a dress with an above the waist corselet of brillo pad packaging), and the men in smart dark suits. The Macbeth’s royal garb alone is almost worth the price of admission.

Macbeth (Mitch Eagles).
Photo credit: Wilson Webel
ERA is known for making great use of, among other things, pre-recorded audio and overlapping lines to create an atmosphere that immerses you in the action, and under the outstanding direction of ERA's artistic director Lucy Cashion, there’s unexpected hilarity from the darkest of scenes, game show moments involving the three witches (they’re all kind of scared of Hecate), and chilling anticipation as Lady Macduff meticulously folds baby clothes or names of the doomed are crossed off scrolls. If you’re on the adventurous side, this is a production not to be missed. Get a ticket now.


Directed by Lucy Cashion
through May 7 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances April 27-May1, May 4-7 at 8pm

Maggie Conroy and Rachel Tibbetts.
Photo credit: Wilson Webel
Lady Macduff, 2nd Witch: Maggie Conroy
Macbeth, Murderer 3: Mitch Eagles
Macduff, Murderer 2: Carl Overly, Jr.
Emily Post, 1st Witch: Ellie Schwetye
Banquo, Murderer 1: Nic Tayborn
Lady Macbeth, 3rd Witch: Rachel Tibbetts

Stage Manager and Assistant Director: Gabe Taylor
Lighting Designer and Fight Choreographer: Erik Kuhn
Costume Designer: Meredith LaBounty
Scenic Designers: Kristin Cassidy, Wilson Webel and Lucy Cashion
Composer, Musical Arranger, and Musician: Joe Taylor
Musician: Philip Zahnd
Dramaturg: Will Bonfiglio
Managing Producer: Katy Keating
Production Intern: Wilson Webel

Joe Taylor and Philip Zahnd.


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