Monday, April 16, 2018

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR • Stray Dog Theatre

After an appearance last season at the Muny and a live broadcast this Easter, St. Louisans have another opportunity to catch Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's classic rock opera that’s been around since the '70s. Loosely based on the Gospels, Jesus Christ Superstar details the last week in the life of Jesus Christ -- a demanding show for any company, and Stray Dog’s production has some hits and some misses.

Omega Jones in the title role stands out as one of the show’s hits. With strong vocals (and a great upper-register), Jones’ charismatic presence is easygoing, winning over the audience and justifying the devotion of Jesus’ followers. His frustration when a flood of appeals from the down-trodden threaten to overwhelm him at the end of a nicely staged, “The Temple”, is well played, and after laying down a groundwork of growing despair, Jones delivers one of the high points of the night with “Gethsemane” -- full of hopelessness and appropriately jaded insolence.

Jesus Christ (Omega Jones),
Mary Magdalene (Heather Matthews)
and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Photo credit: John Lamb
Lavonne Byers’ unconventional casting as Pontius Pilate was a nice move. As the Roman who’s charged with governing Judea, Byers, with the strongest acting of the night, is all bluster and sneering during her first meeting with Jesus (“Pilate and Christ”). But finding no guilt in him, and not wanting to bear the responsibility for his death, Byers’ smoky-voiced pleas with the angry mob to spare him in “Trial Before Pilate and the Thirty-Nine Lashes”, packs a real punch.

Jonathan Hey is Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest who plots to have Jesus killed to keep the peace with Roman authorities. His growling bass is intimidating, and his annoyance with Jesus and his rowdy disciples is palpable. His sidekick, Annas, is played in reptilian fashion by Mike Hodges, who can barely make a move that isn’t slithery. Heather Matthews lends reliably solid vocals to the role of Mary Magdalene. Donning a black surgical mask before she is “healed”, she conveys the most emotion in “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”. Nice work also by Riley Dunn as Simon Zealotes, Kevin Corpuz as the disciple Peter and Gerry Love as King Herod.

(Upper left) Judas Iscariot (Phil Leveling),
(Far Right) Caiaphas (Jonathan Hey)
and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Photo credit: John Lamb
Though Jesus gets the billing, the story really belongs to Judas Iscariot (played here by Phil Leveling), whose infamous disloyalty made his name and the word “traitor” synonymous. Agitated by his friend's growing popularity and nervous about the possible consequences, Judas sets off on a path that leads to betrayal and immediate regret. The vocal rigors of the role seemed a challenge for Leveling, but he characterizes the emotional ups and downs well. Under the music direction of Jennifer Buchheit, guitarist Aaron Doerr and percussionist Mike Hansen tackle Lloyd Webber’s rock score confidently, but the brass sounded a bit tentative on opening night, selling the fanfare portions in a couple of songs short.

Jesus Christ (Omega Jones),
Mary Magdalene (Heather Matthews)
and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Photo credit: John Lamb
Like many iconic musicals and plays, JCS can be plopped into any time period or dressed up in any fashion you like. The time period for Stray Dog’s staging is “A distant future…”, allowing a fair amount of aesthetic latitude. Costume designer Eileen Engel outfits the cast in blacks and dark grays, with hints of red for the Jews and purple for the Romans. Hair and makeup designer Miles Bledsoe has everyone in distinct bands of eye makeup, giving the production a stylish, goth look. Stray Dog opted for something different in not starting out with Jesus wearing white, like so many productions tend to do. But the changing of his jackets throughout seemed to subtly symbolize a progression from his expanding influence to his inevitable fate.

Jesus Christ (Omega Jones),
Mary Magdalene (Heather Matthews)
and Judas Iscariot (Phil Leveling).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Director Justin Been keeps the action running smoothly, and the ensemble works together like a well-oiled machine, executing the crisp choreography that Mike Hodges provides admirably. Tyler Duenow adds moody lights to Josh Smith’s scenic design that includes 2 massive set pieces, one brick and one stone, that dominate the stage. Typical for Stray Dog shows, great use is made of the house, as the roads to Christ’s trials lead the ensemble up and down the aisles of the Abbey.

While it’s not perfect, it’s an engaging production with enough satisfying performances and creative touches to make it worth checking out. It’s playing at Tower Grove Abbey until the 28th.


Jesus Christ (Omega Jones)
and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Photo credit: John Lamb
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by Justin Been 
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through April 28 | tickets: $25 - $30
Performances Thursdays to Saturdays at 8pm, additional performances 2pm Sunday, April 22 and 8pm Wednesday, April 25 *Added performance on April 18 at 8pm

Cast
Jesus Christ: Omega Jones
Judas Iscariot: Phil Leveling
Mary Magdalene: Heather Matthews
Pontius Pilate: Lavonne Byers
Caiaphas: Jonathan Hey
Annas: Mike Hodges
Peter: Kevin Corpuz
Simon Zealotes: Riley Dunn
King Herod: Gerry Love

King Herod (Gerry Love)
and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Photo credit: John Lamb
Priests
Tristan Davis
Corey Fraine
William Humphrey

Ensemble
Michael Baird
Maria Bartolotta
Tristan Davis
Ebony Easter
Corey Fraine
Stephen Henley
William Humphrey
Lindsey Jones
Tim Kaniecki
Gerry Love
Kevin O’Brien
Belinda Quimby
Dawn Schmid
Chrissie Watkins

Jesus Christ (Omega Jones), Priest (William Humphrey),
Caiaphas (Jonathan Hey),
Pontius Pilate (Lavonne Byers), Annas (Mike Hodges)
and Priest (Tristan Davis).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Creative
Artistic Director: Gary F. Bell
Hair and Makeup Designer/Scenic Painter: Miles Bledsoe 
Lighting Designer: Tyler Duenow
Choreographer: Mike Hodges
Costume Designer: Eileen Engel
Costume Stitcher: Amy Hopkins
Stage Manager/Production Manager: Robert M. Kapeller
Assistant Stage Manager: Joshua Littrell
Scenic Designer: Josh Smith

The Band
Reed: Kelly Austermann
Music Director/ Piano: Jennifer Buchheit
Guitar: Aaron Doerr
Violin: Steven Frisbee
Percussion: Mike Hansen
Horn: Liz Kuba
Cello: Michaela Kuba
Bass: M. Joshua Ryan

Sunday, April 8, 2018

NEW JERUSALEM • New Jewish Theatre

Most people don’t like to have their views challenged. But when your long-held convictions about religion are upended? Oof. Forget about it. That’s what got Baruch de Spinoza excommunicated from his Jewish community in Amsterdam, as told in David Ives’ cerebral historical drama -- with its mouthful of a subtitle, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Torah Talmud Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656.

Spinoza is regarded as an eminent Dutch philosopher, but in his 20’s, he was seen as a pagan when his probing theories about the pervious nature of God and his association with free-thinkers clashed with the provincial religious tenets of the day. Rob Riordan’s portrayal is animated with flashes of inspired observations, and to hear his musings about God’s infusion in all things, Spinoza's passion seems apparent. Still, deference was preferred over dissection, so prosecutor Abraham Van Valkenburgh (Jim Butz), speaking on behalf of the Christian population, wasn’t having any of it. Imposing and inflexible, Van Valkenburgh pushes for Baruch’s expulsion from society, and Butz seethes with righteous indignation.
Abraham Van Valkenburgh (Jim Butz),
Baruch de Spinoza (Rob Riordan)
and Clara van den Eden (Karlie Pinder).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey

John Flack’s Chief Rabbi Mortera is Spinoza’s mentor and biggest supporter, but he knows the danger in this determined young man's stepping out of line. Flack’s performance is heavy with the weight of being responsible not only for Spinoza, whom he regards as a son, but for all of the Jews in Amsterdam, whose presence was tolerated more than welcomed. They lived within set restrictions, and while they were admonished to refrain from engaging in religious discussions outside of their own, Spinoza couldn’t help himself. His house-mate, Simon de Vries (Will Bonfiglio), always had an open ear for Spinoza, as did Clara van den Eden (Karlie Pinder), his cautious love-interest, captivated by his intellect and convinced of his devotion.
Rabbi Saul Levi Mortera (John Flack)
and Baruch de Spinoza (Rob Riordan).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
His half-sister Rebekah (Jennifer Theby-Quinn), on the other hand, had an axe to grind with Baruch. Her frenzied hatred of him doesn’t last forever though, and Theby-Quinn’s depiction of Rebekah’s anger and eventual course shift is as amusing as it is thoughtful. Greg Johnston is the wavering Gaspar Rodrigues Ben Israel, the religious leader of the congregation charged with passing the judgement, and with the audience serving as witness to the trial, Spinoza is summoned to the Talmud Torah congregation, and the fiery emotion of the devout is ignited.

Rebekah de Spinoza (Jennifer Theby-Quinn)
and Abraham Van Valkenburgh (Jim Butz).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Served up in the round under amber lanterns, director Tim Ocel’s crisp pacing holds your attention throughout the script’s heavier conceptual moments and emphasizes its streaks of humor. Jon Ontiveros’ pools of light warmly set off Peter and Margery Spack’s deceptively simple scenic design that puts all of the focus on the performances, which are strong, and Michele Friedman Siler provides nicely appointed costumes. 

With his refusal to blindly accept indoctrinated religious ideas, his embrace of a decidedly Eastern bend, and the nerve to put angels on par with unicorns, Baruch de Spinoza was bold and way ahead of his time, and NJT’s telling of his story is well worth checking out.

Simon de Vries (Will Bonfiglio)
and Baruch de Spinoza (Rob Riordan).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Incidentals
• Come on, people. Turn your phones off.


NEW JERUSALEM

Written by David Ives
Directed by Tim Ocel
Marvin & Harlene Wool Studio, 2 Millstone Campus Drive Creve Coeur
through April 22 | tickets: $41 - $44
Performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm




Baruch de Spinoza (Rob Riordan)
and Gaspar Rodrigues Ben Israel (Greg Johnston).
Photo credit: Eric Woolsey
Cast  
Abraham Van Valkenburgh: Jim Butz*
Rabbi Saul Levi Mortera: John Flack*
Gaspar Rodrigues Ben Israel: Greg Johnston
Baruch de Spinoza: Rob Riordan
Simon de Vries: Will Bonfiglio
Clara van den Eden: Karlie Pinder
Rebekah de Spinoza: Jennifer Theby-Quinn

Creative
Stage Manager: Sarah Luedloff*
Scenic Designers: Peter & Margery Spack
Lighting Designer: Jon Ontiveros
Props Master: Margery Spack
Costume Designer: Michele Friedman Siler
Assistant Stage Manager: Isabel Garcia
Master Electrician & Board Operator: Nathan Schroeder
Wardrobe: Craig Jones

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sixth Annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Another awards night has come and gone, this time generously hosted by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, with a delicious buffet provided by With Love Catering. Congratulations to all of the nominees and award recipients! As cliché as it sounds, the amount of talent in our own back yard makes us all winners. Here's the list of the sixth annual St. Louis Theater Circle Award nominees with the award recipients in red.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Heather Beal, Dot, The Black Rep
Rachel Christopher, The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis
Andra Harkins, Steel Magnolias, Stray Dog Theatre
Larissa White, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Theatre Macabre
Gwen Wotawa, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, Insight Theatre Company

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy
John Bratkowski, Sweet Revenge, Upstream Theater
Gary Glasgow, The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Andrew Kuhlman, First Impressions, SATE
Ben Ritchie, Is He Dead?, St. Louis Shakespeare
William Roth, A Behanding in Spokane, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy, Debby Lennon,
Souvenir, Max & Louie Productions
Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Sophia Brown, The Way We Get By, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Thomasina Clarke, Dot, The Black Rep
Debby Lennon, Souvenir, Max & Louie Productions
Justine Salata, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, The Rep
Rachel Tibbetts, Little Thing, Big Thing, The Midnight Company

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Paul Cereghino, Souvenir, Max & Louie Productions
Miles G. Jackson, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, The Rep
Jason Meyers, Stones in His Pockets, West End Players Guild
Jared Sanz-Agero, Stones in His Pockets, West End Players Guild
John Wolbers, First Impressions, SATE

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play
Brian Sidney Bembridge, The Royale, The Rep
Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play
Brian Sidney Bembridge, The Royale, The Rep
Patrick Huber and Tony Anselmo, Souvenir, Max & Louie Productions
Bess Moynihan, Title and Deed, The Midnight Company
Peter Sargent, All My Sons, The Rep
Sean M. Savoie, Intimate Apparel, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
David Bullard, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rep
Mikhail Fiksel, The Royale, The Rep
Mark Kelley, The Flick, R-S Theatrics
Ellie Schwetye, First Impressions, SATE
Rusty Wandall, The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play
Teresa Doggett, Souvenir, Max & Louie Productions
JC Krajicek, Is He Dead?, St. Louis Shakespeare
Michael Alan Stein, Seven Guitars, The Black Rep
Jane Sullivan, Remnant, Mustard Seed Theatre
David Toser, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, The Rep

Outstanding Set Design in a Play
Peter and Margery Spack, Intimate Apparel, New Jewish Theatre
Outstanding Set Design in a Play
Kyra Bishop, Dancing at Lughnasa, Mustard Seed Theatre
Kristin Cassidy, Oedipus Apparatus, West End Players Guild
Dunsi Dai, Souvenir, Max & Louie Productions
Narelle Sissons, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rep
Peter and Margery Spack, Intimate Apparel, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Kim Furlow, August: Osage County, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Rachel Hanks, A Doll’s House, Stray Dog Theatre
Linda Kennedy, Intimate Apparel, New Jewish Theatre
Andrea Purnell, Intimate Apparel, New Jewish Theatre
Kathleen Wise, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rep

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Jim Butz, Uncle Vanya, Rebel and Misfits Productions
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Jim Butz, Uncle Vanya, Rebel and Misfits Productions
Gary Glasgow, Dancing at Lughnasa, Mustard Seed Theatre
Ron Himes, Seven Guitars, The Black Rep
Stephen Peirick, A Doll’s House, Stray Dog Theatre
Chauncy Thomas, Intimate Apparel, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Nicole Angeli, A Doll’s House, Stray Dog Theatre
Kari Ely, August: Osage County, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
Alexis J. Roston, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Max & Louie Productions
Jacqueline Thompson, Intimate Apparel, New Jewish Theatre
Donna Weinsting, Unsuspecting Susan, Inevitable Theatre Company

Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Christopher Harris, A Human Being Died That Night, Upstream Theater
Nick LaMedica, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rep
Andrew Michael Neiman, Uncle Vanya, Rebel and Misfits Productions
Carl Overly Jr., Of Mice and Men, SATE
Jim Poulos, Hamlet, The Rep

Outstanding New Play 
First Impressions, SATE
Outstanding New Play - Tie
First Impressions, SATE
Honor Student, Michael Erickson, Tesseract Theatre
Oedipus Apparatus, Lucy Cashion, West End Players Guild
Percentage America, Carter Lewis, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
twelfth period, or not another twelfth night, Equally Represented Arts

Outstanding Achievement in Opera
Katharine Goeldner, The Grapes of Wrath, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Ricky Ian Gordon & Michael Korie, The Grapes of Wrath, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Stephen Lord, Titus, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Benedetta Orsi, Carmen, Winter Opera Saint Louis
James Robinson, The Grapes of Wrath, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Outstanding Achievement in Opera
Ricky Ian Gordon & Michael Korie,
The Grapes of Wrath, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Outstanding Production of an Opera
Carousel, Union Avenue Opera
The Grapes of Wrath, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
Albert Herring, Union Avenue Opera
The Student Prince, Winter Opera Saint Louis
The Trial, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis

Outstanding Musical Director
Jennifer Buchheit, Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
Jeffrey Richard Carter, The Sweet Smell of Success, New Line Theatre
Charles Creath, Crossin’ Over, The Black Rep
Sarah Nelson, Lizzie, New Line Theatre
Ben Whiteley, A Chorus Line, The Muny

Outstanding Choreographer
Chris Bailey, Newsies, The Muny
Sam Gaitsch, Spring Awakening, Stray Dog Theatre
Denis Jones, A Chorus Line, The Muny
Stephanie Paul, The Royale, The Rep
Taylor Pietz, The Sweet Smell of Success, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Evan Addams, Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
Evan Addams, Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
Kari Ely, 9 to 5, Stages St. Louis
Carmen Garcia, In the Heights, R-S Theatrics
Emily Skinner, The Little Mermaid, The Muny
Marcy Wiegert, Lizzie, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
Ben Davis, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Muny
John Flack, Next to Normal, Insight Theatre Company
Matthew Hydzik, South Pacific, Stages St. Louis
Dominique Scott, Million Dollar Quartet, The Rep
John Tartaglia, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Muny

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical
Mark Wilson, Crossin’ Over, The Black Rep
Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical
Rob Denton, A Chorus Line, The Muny
Rob Lippert, The Sweet Smell of Success, New Line Theatre
Sean M. Savoie, South Pacific, Stages St. Louis
Nathan W. Scheuer, The Little Mermaid, The Muny
Mark Wilson, Crossin’ Over, The Black Rep

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical
David Blake, Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
Jim Burwinkel, Crossin’ Over, The Black Rep
Adam Koch, Million Dollar Quartet, The Rep
Michael Schweikardt & Matthew Young, The Little Mermaid, The Muny
James Wolk, South Pacific, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical
Garth Dunbar, Seussical, Stages St. Louis
Eileen Engel, Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
Robin L. McGee & The Puppet Kitchen, The Little Mermaid, The Muny
Brad Musgrove, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Stages St. Louis
Sarah Porter, Lizzie, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Anna Skidis Vargas, Lizzie, New Line Theatre
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Leah Berry, South Pacific, Stages St. Louis
Kay Love, Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
Beth Malone, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, The Muny
Kirsten Scott, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Stages St. Louis
Anna Skidis Vargas, Lizzie, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Jon Hey, Sweeney Todd, Stray Dog Theatre
Jay Armstrong Johnson, Newsies, The Muny
Omega Jones, Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
Matt Pentecost, The Sweet Smell of Success, New Line Theatre
Jeffrey Schecter, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Muny

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy
The AFI’s Top 100 Greatest American Films of All Time, Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre
First Impressions, SATE
Is He Dead?, St. Louis Shakespeare
Sweet Revenge, Upstream Theater
The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama
August: Osage County, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rep
Dancing at Lughnasa, Mustard Seed Theatre
Intimate Apparel, New Jewish Theatre
twelfth period, or not another twelfth night, Equally Represented Arts

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
A Chorus Line, The Muny
Crossin’ Over, The Black Rep
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Muny
Lizzie, New Line Theatre
Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Director of a Comedy
Edward Coffield, Is He Dead?, St. Louis Shakespeare
Bruce Longworth, The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Sydnie Grosberg Ronga, Souvenir, Max & Louie Productions
Jenn Thompson, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, The Rep
Rachel Tibbetts, First Impressions, SATE

Outstanding Director of a Drama
Marcia Milgrom Dodge,
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rep
Outstanding Director of a Drama
Paul Mason Barnes, Hamlet, The Rep
Gary F. Bell, A Doll’s House, Stray Dog Theatre
Stuart Carden, The Royale, The Rep
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rep
Wayne Salomon, August: Osage County, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Justin Been, Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
Stephen Bourneuf, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Stages St. Louis
Mike Dowdy-Windsor, Lizzie, New Line Theatre
Ron Himes, Crossin’ Over, The Black Rep
Denis Jones, A Chorus Line, The Muny

Outstanding Production of a Comedy
First Impressions, SATE
Is He Dead?, St. Louis Shakespeare
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, The Rep
Souvenir, Max & Louie Productions
The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Drama
August: Osage County, St. Louis Actors’ Studio
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Rep
Hamlet, The Rep
Intimate Apparel, New Jewish Theatre
The Royale, The Rep

Outstanding Production of a Musical
Crossin’ Over, The Black Rep
Lizzie, New Line Theatre
Ragtime, Stray Dog Theatre
South Pacific, Stages St. Louis
Spring Awakening, Stray Dog Theatre

Special Achievement Award
Jan Albus & Lara Teeter, Variety Theatre

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

CAUGHT • The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (Studio Theatre)

An art installation titled Devil in a Red Dress greets the guests downstairs at the Rep’s studio theatre. Featuring the work of visiting Chinese conceptual artist, Lin Bo, the showing is complete with docents and a program guide. After a brief introduction by director Seth Gordon, Bo steps up to the podium and talks about the inspiration for his work, and how his viral, visionary protest project commemorating the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre resulted in his brutal imprisonment by an oppressive Chinese government. With a profile in The New Yorker magazine and a book on the way, Lin Bo is starting to garner attention. He’s got an intriguing story to tell, but it’s not what it seems.

Lin Bo (Kenneth Lee).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Actually, nothing in the Rep’s production of Christopher Chen’s Caught is what it seems.

I’ll remain slim on the particulars to avoid any spoilers, but this inventive trip down the rabbit hole revels in clouding the line that separates truth from fabrication, examines journalism versus fiction, and throws in a little cultural appropriation for good measure. With each subsequent scene eroding what’s come just before, Chen’s play engages you in the way it obliterates the fourth wall, but skids just past the point of credibility on occasion.

Lin Bo (Kenneth Lee), Bob (Jeffrey Cummings)
and Joyce (Rachel Fenton).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Kenneth Lee is polished as Lin Bo, whether he's waxing philosophical about the contemporary art scene, or being grilled about the details in his memoir. Rachel Fenton as Joyce, a writer hoping to catch her first big break, and later as a curator, and Rachel Lin as playwright Wang Min, resolute in her points of view, are both convincing. Along with Lee, these three are agile in their ability switch gears from scene to scene. Jeffrey Cummings rounds out the cast as Bob, Joyce’s smugly melodramatic magazine editor.

If you’re up for an entertaining night out, and a bit of a mindfuck, check out the players at the Rep’s studio theatre as they collectively ask what the “rules of truth” are, and then watch them blow it all up before your eyes.


Wang Min (Rachel Lin) and Curator (Rachel Fenton).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
CAUGHT

Written by Christopher Chen
Directed by Seth Gordon
Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
through March 25 | tickets: $45 - $69.50
Performances Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sunday evenings at 7pm, Thursdays, Fridays and selected Saturday evenings at 8pm, Matinee performances are Saturdays at 4pm and Sundays at 2pm

Cast
Lin Bo: Kenneth Lee*
Joyce/Curator: Rachel Fenton
Bob: Jeffrey Cummings*
Wang Min: Rachel Lin*

Wang Min (Rachel Lin) and Lin Bo (Kenneth Lee).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Creative
Scenic Designer: Robert Mark Morgan
Costume Designer: Felia K. Davenport
Lighting Designer: Ann G. Wrightson
Sound Designer: Rusty Wandall
Projection Designer: Kylee Loera
Installation Artist: Albert Kuo
Stage Manager: Shannon B. Sturgis*

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

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