Tuesday, April 30, 2013

SMASH/HIT! • The Black Rep

Receiving its world premiere at the Black Rep, Smash/Hit!, written by Steve Broadnax and Michael S. Bordner, centers around "Money" (Ronald L. Conner), and his aspirations of making it big on the hip-hop scene along with his childhood friend, Chance (Matthew Galbreath).  The play also touches on other subjects -- the plight of poverty, post-traumatic stress disorder, father/son dynamics and homophobia in the black community.  It tries to cover a lot of ground.  Maybe too much.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WAITING FOR GODOT • St. Louis Actors' Studio

Played out on a minimal set with a couple of stones, a leafless tree, and a backdrop of a blue cloudy sky, Waiting for Godot, as the title suggests, is about these two guys, Vladimir (Gary Wayne Barker) and Estragon (Terry Meddows), who are waiting for someone called Godot.  The men admit they don't remember how they know Godot, or if they even really know him at all.  Just about the only thing they do know is that when Godot shows up, everything will be better.  Hmm…  But what to do in the meantime…?

Samuel Beckett's tragicomedy (here pronounced GOD-oh, the way Beckett intended) that debuted in a small Paris theatre in 1953 has long been hailed as a classic example of the "Theatre of the Absurd".  It's practically devoid of dramatic conventions.  There's no solid plot.  Instead it's populated with the mundane details of what happens amidst the waiting.  The exchanges between Vladimir and Estragon (or Didi and Gogo -- their familiar names for each other), are where the wolfish, deeper themes of the play lay disguised (or in plain sight) as lamb's clothing.  This play presents the everydayness of life.  Whether they're bickering, eating carrots, trying to remember what day it is, or trading off hats and quick banter like Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy, the dialogue between Didi and Gogo is where the overall landscape of the bleak, comic, repetitive and uncertain nature of the human condition is cleverly cloaked.

Friday, April 12, 2013

GYPSY: A MUSICAL FABLE • Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog continues its trend of not backing away from ambitious shows with its current production, Gypsy -- one of the most highly regarded book musicals in the canon of musical theatre.  Loosely based on the memoirs of famed striptease performer, Gypsy Rose Lee, there are many reasons this musical that premiered in 1959 about the stage mother of all stage mothers is regarded in such high esteem.  With a deeply-layered book by Arthur Laurents, clever lyrics by my hero, Stephen Sondheim and splendid, intricate music by Jule Styne, Gypsy not only has a reverence for "showbiz" itself and more than a few classic numbers (beginning with an old-school overture that you should definitely keep your pie hole shut for), but also, it centers around the complicated character, Mama Rose, who roots for and alienates those close to her.  It also has not one, but two major character arcs, where at the start there's a strong one and a weak one, and by the end, the strongest has become the weakest, and the weakest becomes the strongest.  Love…

Monday, April 8, 2013

CONVICTION • New Jewish Theatre

This engrossing one-act, one-man show covers a lot of ground.  Adapted from the novel “Confession” by Yonatan Ben Nachum, it's based on a true story centering around Andrés Gonzalez, a fifteenth century priest during the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

It begins at the Spanish National Archives in the 1960's, where an interrogation is taking place.  There's been some Inquisition files concerning Gonzalez -- trying to be smuggled out by a man who had been working on a Spanish genealogy project.  We never see who is being interrogated, only the interrogator (Ami Dayan), the manager of the National Archives.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

CHILDCARE • OnSite Theatre Company

OnSite Theatre Company, like the name suggests, specializes in site-specific theatre -- very cool and quite exceptional in the local area.  Their latest offering is a world premiere that takes place at the Downtown Children's Center.

We start out meeting Joy (Maggie Conroy) and her aunt Roz (Elizabeth Townsend), who runs a daycare facility that's in need of more clients.  Roz is desperate to beef up the enrollment because the daycare's board has been on her about bringing in more revenue.  Her niece has been taking early childhood education classes and would love a shot at handling a class or two, but Roz insists she needs Joy at the front desk handling the secretarial duties.  Joy has also had some trouble in the boyfriend department, and is trying to keep the details from Roz because she doesn't want any information passed along to her mother.