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Resident Critic for www.ClevelandStageAlliance.com www.tpography.com – Kevin Kelly

TPOGraphy.com Editor: Robert Kowalewski

Month

September 2014

Loki and Lucy (A Norse Mythology Story)

Talespinner Children’s Theatre
Professional Theatre

Setting off on an adventure to visit Talespinner Children’s Theatre (TCT), is always an exciting jaunt. Executive Artistic Director Alison Garrigan and her astute creative partners always deliver a top notch professional show that thrills and educates the young audiences, as well as parents. But, as you approach the Reinberger Auditorium, it is not hard to find the entrance. There is usually a stream of young ladies showing off their princess dresses, accompanied by rowdy brothers, bouncing off the walls in excitement. And they have every reason to be excited, because the current offering at TCT, Loki and Lucy (A Norse Mythology Story) by Michael Geither, is very entertaining.

If you are wondering what is Norse Mythology, briefly it is a kind of religion that was practiced by some of the people in the Scandinavian countries, primarily Vikings. In the last few decades, the stories and culture of the Vikings have increasingly spread across the world. This was the origin of Norse mythology. They are what these people believed, and their religion had no specific name, and this made it seem like a tradition practice. They believed in their gods’ deities such as the Odin, Thor, Loki, and Freya, and other mythical beings such as the giant, dwarfs and other creatures. Such the stories of doing good and bad were accessible to the children, and the adults who needed it.

Hence, we come to this particular tale of Loki and Lucy (A Norse Mythology Story).  Featured is the story of Lucy (a delightful Melissa T. Crum), and her dream adventure, that seems to be guided by the mischievous Loki (fun-loving Bryan Ritchey). At first we find Lucy at home with her mother (charming Brittany Gaul), and we see a tree in the background that looks suspiciously alive (Loki). When Lucy falls asleep, Loki comes alive and takes her on a journey filled with wonderful characters. All the actors are firing on all cylinders. Nicholas Chokan is a scream as Thor, wielding his big hammer and arsenal of comedic gold. Gaul also takes on the role of the Fenrir, and creates quite the pesky Fox to everyone’s delight. Nate Miller as Thorbjorn Horgabrudr, is also a hoot with a mugtastic face and physicality that completely engages and entertains. Bryan Ritchey as Loki, does a fabulous job of weaving the tale, and pulling Lucy along for the ride. Ritchey is engaging, affable, and moves with animated grace. Crum is a bouncy, peppy, childlike gift to the proceedings. She has a beautiful way of connecting with the audience that enhances the entire experience. Such a delightful presence the entire journey.

As usual, the costuming, puppets, and set design are unique and engaging. Set and Puppet Design by Alison Garrigan, who is a creative force that seems to know no boundaries. The fabulous Costume Design by Melanie Boeman is just a feast for the eyes. Lighting Designer Benjamin Gantose provides his excellence once again. Stage Manager Tania Benites called a great show. Assistant Director and Tech Director Charles Hargrave sharing his refined talents. Movement by Katelyn Cornelius was very interesting. And may I say, that it is nice to see a production that doesn’t use common dance steps to convey the story. I think Twyla Tharp will enjoy what goes on here. And the icing on the cake is the Director Alison Garrigan. The story is told with such energetic and focused composition, but still allows the silliness to provide the performance, so kids can laugh, and parents can revel in their children’s laughter, while being entertained themselves. Just a handsome production on all levels. The vision is clear, and all of us win as a result.

Congratulations on another fabulous show. Please take your kids out to see this show, and experience Talespinner Children’s Theatre. This is children’s theatre with a professional vision, and enough heart and soul to make any bad day better.

Tpography.com

9/27/14

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September 20 – October 12
Showtimes:
7pm Fridays
2pm and 7pm Saturdays

2pm Sundays

Tickets:
$10-$15 General Admission

(216) 264-9680

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Talespinner Children’s Theatre
Reinberger Auditorium
5209 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102

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The Little Foxes at the Cleveland Play House

Cleveland Play House
Professional Equity House Theatre

The 99th season of the Cleveland Play House starts off with a fabulous bang with Lillian Hellman’s classic The Little Foxes. Under the fierce direction of Artistic Director Laura Kepley, this play soars. Aaron Spelling must have seen this play before he produced the television series Dynasty, because there is so much backstabbing that I am surprised these actors don’t perform entirely against the walls. The only thing missing for me is a good old brawl between Alexis and Krystle, I mean, Regina and Birdie. Of course, you have to be a bit older to enjoy what I mean.

The Little Foxes is a 1939 play who’s title was inspired by Chapter 2, Verse 15 of the Song of Solomon in the King James version of the Bible, which reads, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”  And my, do these characters spoil and take advantage of tender human flaws. Set in a small town in Alabama in 1900, it focuses on the struggle for control of a family business.

The play’s focus is Southerner Regina Hubbard Giddens (Maggie Lacey*), who struggles for wealth and freedom within the confines of an early 20th-century society, where fathers considered only sons as legal heirs. As a result of this practice, her avaricious brothers Benjamin (Cameron Folmar*) and Oscar (Jerry Richardson*) are independently wealthy, while she must rely upon her sickly, wheelchair-using husband Horace for financial support. Regina’s brother Oscar married Birdie (Heather Anderson Boll*), his much-maligned alcoholic wife, solely to acquire her family’s plantation and its cotton fields. Oscar now wants to join forces with his brother, Benjamin, to construct a cotton mill. They need an additional $75,000 and approach their sister, asking her to invest in the project. Oscar initially proposes marriage between his son Leo (Nick Barbato) and Regina’s daughter Alexandra (Megan King) – first cousins – as a means of getting Horace’s money, but Horace (Donald Carrier*) and Alexandra are repulsed by the suggestion. The resulting self-centered attempts by some of the family members create irreparable fissures, and result in some paying the ultimate price of life, and devastating loneliness.

Attending the production with my friend Molly McGinnis on a Saturday afternoon, I was struck by two things. First, how the matiness was so well attended, and then the beautiful set. Incredible craftsmanship, beautifully lit, which resulted in a welcoming environment that literally stirred excitement.

Lacey leads this dysfunctional parade with exceptional execution. Her beautiful looks mask a deep conniving heart, and her presentation is a fascinating study to try to find out if this character has the ability to ever be honest. Her stage presence is tremendous, as is her ability to make you want to slap the back of her head and yell “Knock it off!” The Brothers Grimm, or The Brothers Hubbard are quite a collection of misfits. Folmar leads off batting first in the smarmy line up. He deftly creates a devilish, selfish Benjamin, who is obviously empty of any compassion, except maybe when he looks in the mirror. As middle brother Oscar, Richardson presents the typical male who suffers from a Napoleon complex below the belt. His character follows his brother’s lead, and frustrated by his own lack of male dominance, finds it abusing his wife (a shockingly executed moment).  Then there is Barbato, who creates a Leo that is as trifling gnat that never seems to settle down. Just like bowling, he would need the bumpers in the gutter lanes to get through life. He is enjoyable and annoying. Boll is mesmerizing as Birdie. We watch her character and struggle to find what is going on in that head, and as the layers are pealed back, we are astonished of how the will to survive is profound. Her coping mechanism is a beautifully played moment in the show, and heartbreaking. Carrier brings strength and energy as he joins the family. Watching him navigate through the machinations of those around him is a pleasure to watch. He adds so much to the balance of power in the play, and does so with great choices. King presents a strong presence on stage. As a younger character, she turns in a fierce performance and creates an arc for Alexandra that is very rewarding to watch.  As Addie and Cal, Tolliver and Sullivan are not throw away characters. They each create a sense of weight in the play with sincere, powerful, and occasionally comical moments, which greatly enhances the handling of racism with dignity and resolve. Ellis as the Cotton Mill executive Marshall, cuts a fine figure and infuses the opening scenes with the right amount of “presenting the brass ring”, which everyone wants to grab. Hence, setting the wheels in motion in a fantastic way.

There was only one thing I noticed that I thought dangerously trod near farce, and that is where the brothers are denying an accusation from Regina. Some of the physical reactions of denial seemed too big for the atmosphere and tone that has been established to date. Other than that, I thought this production was a beautiful opening to the new season, and reinforces how wonderful it is to see Laura Kepley at the helm of this great institution.

The production team was excellent. Scenic and Costume Designer Lex Liang (Seriously amazing work. The costumes were perfection and the set wrapped the proceedings with elegance), Lighting Designer Michael Boll, Sound Designer Jane Shaw, Voice and Speech Director Thom Jones, Fight Choreographer Ron Wilson, Stage Manager Tom Humes*, Assistant Stage Manager Lizzie Robinson*.

This is a beautiful show, and a fascinating to watch the dysfunction. This play holds up really well, and that is a sad commentary on our human condition.

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association.

The Director is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

The scenic, costume, lighting and sound designers in LORT Theatres are represented by United Scenic Artists, Local USA-829 of the IATSE.

Actors Nick Barbato and Megan King are members of the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House Master of Fine Arts Acting Program.

Tpography.com

9/24/14

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September 12 – October 5
Showtimes
7pm Tuesdays
7:30pm Wednesdays
7:30pmThursdays
7:30pm Fridays
2:30pm and 7:30pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays

Tickets:
$15-$59 Reserved Seating

(216) 241-6000

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Cleveland Play House
Allen Theater Complex
1407 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115

The Musical Theater Project – Bill Rudman – Babes in Arms Performance

Last Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of attending The Musical Theatre Project (TMTP) at the Beck Center for the Arts. I was invited by my good friend Joanna May Hunkins, who has just become Associate Director. TMTP was formed in 2000 to foster a deeper appreciation of the American Musical. Through its concert and cabaret series, TMTP educates, as well as entertains people of all ages. It is headed up by BILL RUDMAN, an educator, a broadcaster, a producer and the founder of TMTP. He has created more than 40 concerts and cabarets that celebrate and share musical theater as a uniquely American art form. His radio programs, “Footlight Parade” and “On the Aisle,” are heard across the country on public radio stations, Public Radio Exchange (prx.org) and Sirius XM Satellite Radio. In 1983, he and New York author Ken Bloom co-founded Harbinger Records, a label that has won critical praise for albums devoted to the American musical and the Great American Songbook. In 2000 he became the first recipient of the Robert Bergman Award for his work in arts education and community outreach. Armed with a passionate mission, this man is well grounded and experienced, to lead this educational treasure chest.

On Thursday night, TMTP presented the American musical classic Babes in Arms. The evening was produced by the hosting venue Beck Center for the Arts, and artistically fueled by the Kent State University Musical Theatre Program. What a fantabulous collection of Producers, which resulted in an incredibly charming evening of education and performance quality. The incredible host Bill Rudman introduces us to what we are about to see, guides us through the storyline, provides fascinating background on the show, and the artists who created it, which includes the legendary song writing team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

Babes in Arms is a 1937 musical that concerns a young man and woman, in their 20’s, who put on a show with their friends to avoid having them be sent to a work farm, since their parents are out of work vaudevillians. It is truly the first “Hey, let’s us kids put on a show,” which screams Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Providing the talent for the occasion is the Kent State Musical Theatre students, and boy, do they deliver the goods. With sharp, fun direction from Terri Kent, tap dancing magic provided by Choreographer MaryAnn Black, and fierce Music Direction by Nancy Maier, assisted by Jennifer Korecki, this is one of the best concert staged musicals that I have ever seen. With the energy of the engaging cast, and the production values, this production delighted the nearly full Beck Center crowd.

This cast was ridiculously cute and entertaining. Kyle Kemph (Val Lamar) has to be the patronus of Mickey Rooney. This kid is packed with musical theatre muscle, and along with effortless charm and a beautiful voice, nailed it. Lindsay Simon (Billie Smith) takes on the iconic Judy Garlandesque role, and creates a full blown musical sack of fabulous sugar, with a side of sass, and alongside Kemph, created a solid team to lead this bouncy musical. Michael Crowley brings his charm to Marshall Blackstone. Kristen Hoffman and Christopher Tuck, as Dolores Raynolds and Gus Fielding, are the character actors you want to go out and have a shot with. Blessed with engaging voices, and faces that are mugtastic, these two are a delight. The rest of the cast is solid as well, Jennifer Kirchner serving Baby Rose realness, William Tipton and Kirk Lydell bringing Nicholas Brothers’ charm and movement alive and lovable, Troy Kowatch giving us a hilarious look at day dreaming as Peter, Tyler Hanes and Andy Donelly providing the racist tension in the show by showing both sides of the coin with the Calhoun brothers, and finally Kevin Lauver delivering a hilarious ride as Rene Flambeau.

Providing great production work was Production Manager and Lighting Designer Jaime Benjamin, Sound Designer R. Eric Simna, and Stage Manager Nathan Rosmarin.

This was a great time and I can’t wait to see another TMTP production. Keep your eye on their website http://www.musicaltheaterproject.org/

Bravo!

Tpography.com

9/22/14

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Forever Plaid at Beck Center for the Arts

       

Forever Plaid

Beck Center for the Arts
Professional Theatre                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Forever Plaid is an off-Broadway musical revue written in New York in 1990. Musical arrangements, vocal arrangements and musical direction were by James Raitt; the show was written, directed, and choreographed by Stuart Ross. The show is a revue of the close-harmony “guy groups” (e.g. The Four Aces, The Four Freshmen) that reached the height of their popularity during the 1950s. Personifying the clean-cut genre are The Plaids. This quartet of high-school chums’ dreams of recording an album ended in death, in a collision with a bus filled with Catholic schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles’ American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. The play begins with the Plaids returning from the afterlife for one final chance at musical glory.

The playlist for this jukebox musical includes great classic songs such as: “Three Coins in the Fountain”; “Undecided”; “Gotta Be This or That”; “Moments to Remember”; “Crazy ‘Bout Ya, Baby”; “No, Not Much”; “Sixteen Tons”; “Chain Gang”; “Perfidia”; “Cry”; “Heart and Soul”; “Lady of Spain”; “Scotland the Brave”; “Shangri-La”; “Rags to Riches”; and “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing”.

Directed and Choreographed by Martin Cespedes, The Beck Center for the Arts cast includes Josh Rhett Noble* (Sparky); Matthew Ryan Thompson (Jinx); Brian Altman (Smudge); and making his Beck Center debut, Shane O’Neill (Frankie). Musical Direction provided by Bryan Bird. His band included Bill Hart on Drums, and Kevin Aylward on Bass.

I couldn’t imagine being a maitre d’, and looking down at your reservation book and seeing that Noble, Thompson, Altman, and O’Neill had booked a table for the evening. That is one fantastic talented hot mess of a table. Well, the Beck Center is serving up that combo for all to see, and the result is a vocal delight. Each one of these performers is a delight in their own respect. So, seeing them inhabit the Plaids on Preview night was a scream. Everyone gets their turn in the spotlight, and each brings their comedic gifts to the party. Leading the comic parade is Noble. He is just hilarious in every situation, and has a set of hips that deserves a curtain call. He was on the top of my laugh list. Thompson uses his innocent, shy routine to fierce delight. In a bizarre way, some of his delivery reminds me of Mary Katherine Gallagher from Saturday Night Live fame. Altman brings his supreme charm to the proceedings. His rich voice adds substance to the vocals, and give this man a spoon and a ketchup bottle, and magic ensues. Beck Center audiences have their first chance to fall head over heels for O’Neill. Blessed with an angelic voice and face, he croons like a matinee idol. Truly a gift to the proceedings. And the best part, is each one of them is talented singer, and their blend is to die for. See what I did there?

This production is just a whole lot of damn cuteness and feel good vocalizations. The fellows have their work cut out for them with the challenging choreography. It is obvious the drill work these four must have went through to nail the execution of never-ending tweaks and tweaks recreating all the old classic moves. But, that definitely paid off. The highlight of the evening is the Ed Sullivan Show section. I literally could not stop laughing as a barrage of sight gags filled my rods and cones with so many hilarious images, that I will be giggling for weeks. Sooooooooo funny. Another highlight is when the Plaids bring up and audience member to play “Heart and Soul.” Hilarious results.

There were some distractions with the production. One major one was most of the whispered dialogue is lost. I lost many of Thompson’s whispered lines, and when the group would whisper. Now, some of those whispers might not be needed to be heard by the audience, but it creates dead space, and there is a lot of that in the beginning.  There is also an issue with no front lighting on the faces, especially in some of the solo moments. Shadows on faces from being lit from above. That could be an intended look, but i found it distracting. My final critique is the band. Not their playing, that is terrific. But, aside from choreographed smiles to the audience from Bird, the band never smiles. I know the Plaids are dead, but if the Plaids can enjoy themselves, so can you. This is a party!

The bottom line is that the audience will eat this show alive, as they did by giving a Standing O to the hardworking cast. One of the greatest things about this show, is that each performer is a talented class act and a great ambassador for the arts. You will leave this show in a better place after having enjoyed the work of some of the area’s most talented performers. Great job casting Mr. Cespedes.

Production Team:

Director and Choreographer Martin Cespedes, Musical Director Bryan Bird, Stage Manager Diana D’Alessandro, Scenic Designer Aaron Benson (love the Mike Douglas set), Technical Director/Lighting Designer, Sound Designer Carlton Guc (excellent blend), Costume Designer Aimee Kluiber (Great looks), Assistant to the Choreographer Holly Kay Harris.

September 12 – October 12
Showtimes:
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays

3pm Sundays

Tickets:
$10-$29 Reserved Seating

(216) 521-2540

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Beck Center for the Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107

The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd at Weathervane Playhouse

Weathervane Playhouse
Community Theatre
Directed by Tony Award-winner Michael Rupert, The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd is a comical, allegorical satire on the British class system of the 1960’s, and is the current offering at Weathervane Playhouse in Akron, OH. The show has Book, Music, and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. Through a series of sketches and songs, usually served up in a style reminiscent of vaudeville, we meet the show’s two central characters: the pompous Sir (Patrick Michael Dukeman), who represents “the Establishment,” and the downtrodden Cocky (Ryan Bergeron), who stands in for “the little guy.” Sir and Cocky meet to play “The Game,” which symbolizes the eternal struggle between “The Haves” and “The Have Nots.” Because Sir changes and manipulates the rules of The Game, Cocky always ends up with the short end of the stick. Sir’s disciple and sidekick, known as The Kid (Kate Klika), is eager to learn from his master while keeping an eye on the upstart Cocky, who desperately wants to beat Sir at The Game. As the mighty battle wages between Sir and Cocky, a group of young children known as the Urchins comments through song and dance (as a sort of Greek chorus). Ultimately, Sir and Cocky are forced to realize that their interdependence is more complicated and thorny — and perhaps more potentially variable — than either “Have” or “Have Not” originally thought. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, many of the songs from The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd have become musical standards: “Who Can I Turn To?,” “The Joker,” “The Beautiful Land,” “A Wonderful Day Like Today” and “Feeling Good” (which was a hit song for both Nina Simone and Michael Bublé).
The first thing I noticed after a lively opening number featuring the cast, was that Dukeman was holding a script. I didn’t learn until later, that he recently joined the cast the week before tech week. I have to say that I was incredibly impressed by Dukeman for diving into the show, and also, doing the show, because he is a delight. He is kind of a combination of Downton Abbey, Harold Hill and the Man in the Chair with control issues. His sparing partner for the evening is Bergeron, who houses a powerful voice, and attitude and sass for days, to the delight of the production. There are many great songs from this show, but when he sings “The Joker”, it is close to perfection. Ashley Bossard at The Girl, brings her own sense of sass to her role, and is a pleasant addition. Kate Kilka kicks some major butt as The Kid. Dynamic diction and great characterization. Will Price as The Bully adds the right amount of feisty-ness to the proceedings. But, the star turn of the night belongs to Marcus Malcolm Martin, as The Outsider. In this darkly directed piece, his solo “Feeling Good” brought down the house. As the Urchins, a fine gaggle of talent is assembled with young fresh faces eagerly taking advantage of their stage time to sing and dance.
My biggest problem with this production comes from how it was directed by Michael Rupert. There is a general air of sadness through this entire piece. First, it doesn’t seem like the Urchins have been given any character development at all. Questions to why they come on, and move off, and their presence seemed to go unanswered. Only when Lora Workman’s choreography takes over, do they come to life. Also, the show itself is literally dark.  There are only a few occasions that the stage is lit up, providing glimpses of energy for the cast to bask in. So instead, we are given depressing lighting, and even the color changing specials on the game board don’t register at all. The Girl is dressed and directed like she is from skid row, which makes her payment from Sir odd. After intermission, it was clear that the audience had dwindled. Maybe, that was because of the choice to have every ballad by Sir or Cocky, start by sitting on the stage left footstool. As soon as someone sat there, I thought, ok, cue the ballad. But watching people directed to go back to the footstool before they sang, was incredulous.
My hope with this talented cast, is that when the chains of direction come off, they will blossom and grow and let the buoyancy and fun back into the piece. Hopefully, with more light.
Production Team:
Director Michael Rupert, Choreographer Lora Workman, Musical Director John Ebner, Stage Manager Jill Forster, Lighting Designer Jonathan Hunter, Properties Co-Designers Brianna Machuga and Jordan Priddy, Sound Designer Audrey Fliegel, Costume Designer Jasen J. Smith, Scenic Designer and Technical Director Alan Scott Ferrell (Great set), Assistant Technical Director.
Tpography.com
9/12/14
Please credit Tpography.com with any quotes. Thank you.
September 4 – September 21
Showtimes:
7:30pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays

Tickets:
$7.50-$25 Reserved Seating
(330) 836-2626

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Weathervane Playhouse
1301 Weathervane Lane
Akron, Ohio 44313

Belleville at Dobama Theatre

Dobama Theatre
Professional Equity House Theatre

My visit to Dobama Theatre was a triple dose of entertainment. First, a pre-show talk hosted by Artistic Director Nathan Motta, featuring guest director Corey Atkins. Secondly, the profound and disturbing drama Belleville by Amy Herzog. And finally, the actors return to the stage for a post-show talkback with the audience. Atkins was very engaging, as he revealed his theatrical journey. Presently, he is the Assistant Producer at the Cleveland Play House (CPH), handling local auditions, and the Inside CPH program. He reviewed his directing process through visual images, research, historical and psychological character analysis, and then culminating with the ultimate process of collaboration. Addressing the playwright Amy Herzog, we learn that she is considered by the industry as one of the best at “creating natural dialogue.” With a Chekhovian influence on characterization, Atkins holds true to the superlative that “the voice of the playwright is the most important voice.” Motta, announces that this is the first production of the first season as a full equity house. What an exciting professional gift to our theatre community, and to continuing the dream of the first Artistic Director Donald Bianchi.

Speaking of a gift, this production of Belleville is a riveting emotional time bomb that uses a slow fuse to ignite a descent into tell. The fuse might be a tad too long, but the conviction of the actors and outstanding performances will stay with you. It is the story of Abby (Llewie Nunez+) and Zack (Matt O’Shea+), a married couple living in the Belleville section of Paris. Zack is a doctor working on his passion project of pediatric AIDS. Abby is now in the process of teaching yoga, besides the fact that no one seems to show up for her classes. Living below them is a Muslim couple, Alioune (Robert Hunter), and Amina (Carly Germany*). The have a newborn, and also the landlords, as Alioune’s Uncle owns the building. When Abby comes home from her yoga class early, because once again, no one showed up, she settles in her apartment. Soon, she begins to hear music, which is eventually identified as coming from the bedroom. When she investigates, she discovers her husband taking matters into his own hand. The confrontation that results, is the first fissure in trust between the two that will ultimately destroy them. The rest of the play follows that fissure as it cracks open everyone’s humanity, trust, mental health, and damaging secrets.

The four actors that inhabit this world are wonderful. Nunez creates a character who is so neurotic and emotionally draining, I wanted to scream “Shut the F@@@ Up!” after the first 20 minutes. She lives in a world of “What If?”, and as a result, is exhausting with her insecurity. The fact that she goes off her meds does that help matters at all. Her issues with leaving her family are acute, and Nunez finds every level and nuance of neurosis that is presented. Her physical encounters are also noted, as they were executed with professional flare. Handling this tornado of angst is O’Shea, a brilliant actor. He is mesmerizing to watch as he navigates his environment, his addictions, and his fractured truth.  Both of these actors create moments of tension and fear, as if I was looking into an apartment in movie Rear Window, and having no way to helping any one of them. The relationship between these two is like watching a car wreck in slow motion.

As the downstairs neighbor, Hunter brings a beautiful honesty, and when needed, a realistic harshness to the role of Alioune. He delivers a pitch perfect performance, even though he doesn’t have an asterisk or a carrot after his name. As his beautiful wife, Amina, all I can say is “Hell to the Yes!” Germany is such an incredible presence, and I have to say one of the top equity actresses in this area. Every moment is searing with relevancy and purpose. Her character stands tall as she manages against immature behavior, and is not afraid to kick some ass and take names. However at the end, she lends a disturbing surreal calm. You will remember her.

Overall, in regard to the real time approach of storytelling, understandably based in truth, I wish Atkins would have found ways to tighten the pauses of nonverbal communication and decision making. I think once you pass the 90 minute mark, it starts to test the audience. Some scene changes seemed they could be trimmed, and with the run, some of that will resolve itself. I left feeling very moved from what I saw. And, for any patrons of this show that hear the phrase “Daddy, come get me”, they will have a profound flashback to this play.

After processing the emotional toll of this storytelling, this incredibly professional cast came out for a talk back. Giving back to the audience again, with grace and fierceness. And I am sure, tired. Bravo.

+Equity Membership Candidate

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association

Production Team:

Director Corey Atkins, Scenic Designer Jill Davis (Spectacular job on the set, providing a fascinating look), Lighting Designer Marcus Dana (Another phenomenal job, and the ambulance passing was fierce), Costume Designer Inda Blatch-Geib (Great looks), Sound Designer Tom Linsenmeier (Nice work), Prop Designer Dred Geib, Technical Director David Tilk (Excellent), Dialect Coach Donald Carrier (convincing), Stage Manager Megan Mingus (Called a great show), and Assistant Stage Manager Lauryn Hobbs.

Tpography.com

9/12/14

Please credit Tpography.com with any quotes. Thank you.

September 5 – October 5
Showtimes:
7:30pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays

2:30pm all other Sundays

Tickets:
$10-$28 Reserved Seating

(216) 932-3396

Order Tickets Online
Location:
Dobama Theatre
2340 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

Company – A Musical Comedy at Workshop Players Theatre-in-the-Round

Workshop Players
Community Theatre

The road to Workshop Players in Amherst, OH, is a pleasant trip, lined with open fields, healthy trees, and an occasional NRA flag flying at full mast. The trip was made more pleasant by ending with a very nice production of Company, led by Ian Atwood in the role of Bobby. Company is a musical based on a book by George Firth, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The plot involves around Bobby (Atwood), a 35 year old single man, who is unable to commit to any kind of stable relationship, or god forbid, marriage. Linked by a celebration for Bobby’s 35th birthday, the musical is a series of vignettes, featuring five married couples, and three girlfriends that surround Bobby with advice, and opportunities to settle down.

Director Jennifer Bertoni has cast an appealing group of actors who generate a lot of good will on stage. The actors range from seasoned pros, up and comers, and those that are getting their feet wet and hold great promise. As Musical Director, Andrew Bertoni has made the unfortunate decision to use an electric piano for the only musical accompaniment for the show. This leads to a muddled sound on many numbers, and eliminates any chance for the music to add emotional weight to the numbers. The Choreography works, the first major number seems a bit squished, and however, the act two opening moves nicely and generates more fun.

However, the cast doesn’t seem to care about any distractions, because they end up just having a ball. As Bobby, Atwood presents a well-constructed, gentle, kind character, who is certainly not undersexed. He is blessed with a fabulous voice which enables him to belt glorious notes and float tenor notes that are emotional gifts. Atwood stands grounded against the revolving human dysfunctional planets. Sarah (Deb Burrow) and Harry (Jonathan O’Toole) are a great couple. Watching them navigate their addictions to Sara Lee and alcohol is a hoot. The fact that karate seems a popular way to release stress, just makes you want to get a beer and a shot with them even more. Susan (Victoria Fritzman) and Peter (Kevin Boland) make their mark with Fritzman’s fierce soprano vocals and southern charm, while Boland delivers a very honest and funny balcony scene, where he shares a scenario he has been thinking about. Jenny (Emmalea Linder) and David (Alex Craig) are my favorite couple. Very honest and funny. The scene getting high is well balanced and executed with great results. Amy (Kayla McDonald) and Paul (Aaron Smith) have the classic wedding scene. McDonald is a fabulous neurotic hot mess, nails her patter song, and shows her acting chops with Atwood with her honest resolve to getting married. Smith is quiet on the assist, as he should be, and adds good vocals. Joanne (Jayne Kacik) and Larry (Ted Williams) bring some mature realness to the table. Williams creates a handsome, gentle soul, who loves Joanne to a fault. From time to time, it was hard to hear him. But he is a great compliment to Kacik, who establishes dominance and stage presence the moment we see her. She is a fireball of talent and engaging characterization. She cuts through this musical like a seasoned pro, and the results are fabulous.

Through Bobby’s journey, we meet his girlfriends; April (Shelbey Linder), Marta (Kristina Rivera), and Kathy (Kelsey Rice). The three conjoin to create a feisty “you could drive a person crazy,” but I don’t understand the staging of why Kathy is not singing to Bobby, when the other two are selling their goods directly to him. Linder takes a sardonic approach to April, but the payoff is the delivery of “I have nothing else to say.” Comedic gold. Rivera is shimmering confidence and dispenses some fierce vocals. Rice provides the on-off girlfriend realness, and shares an honest and beautiful scene about Cape Cod.

This is a cute show, with a good group of actors working hard and having fun. Take a trip and support Community Theatre in Amherst.

Production Team:

Director Jennifer Bertoni, Music Director Andrew Bertoni, Stage Manager Greg Friedman, Production Manager Dawn Watson, Scenic Designer Dan Marchand, Choreographer Jennifer Bertoni, Assistant Choreographer Jessica Atwood, Costume Designer Becky Linder (nice job), Lighting Designer Matt Gould.

Tpography.com

9/12/14

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September 4 – September 21
Showtimes:

8pm Thursday (September 4 only)
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
3pm Sundays

Tickets:
$14
(440) 988-5613

Location:
Workshop Players
44820 Middle Ridge Road
Amherst, OH 44001

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