Theater

Monday, February 17, 2014

Desdemona says a lot about the company, if you can hear it

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 11:53 AM

COURTESY SPRINGS ENSEMBLE THEATRE
  • Courtesy Springs Ensemble Theatre
Not much can be said in either defense or disapproval of a play in which not one, but two, major characters are rendered incomprehensible by the actresses portraying them.

But with Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief, which Springs Ensemble Theatre is staging, Paula Vogel seems to have written an often gripping exploration of suspicion, class antagonism, and gender allegiance among women that deserves our best attention anyway.

Vogel has taken shrewd and intriguing license with much of Shakespeare’s Othello to remake Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca into complex heroines suggestive of the best plays by Strindberg and Genet. We also learn a great deal about the men of Othello that interests and seems true, but understated in the original. (See our preview of the play here.)

Desdemona (played by the exceedingly talented Leah Jenkins) of the title is the very same as that of Othello, but of a completely opposite disposition. Here she is a willing pupil of duplicity and sadomasochism who luxuriates in a Venetian social position that both bores and over-insulates her. She throws fits over a lost handkerchief she doesn’t value much to begin with, and degrades her dutiful scullery-maid Emilia (Sarah S. Shaver) who willingly joins in the search.

Set in a combination laundry and tack room in Cyprus, the earthy, sensual disorder of the place provokes uninhibited confessions from Desdemona. June Scott Barfield’s set design is thoroughly convincing and laudable as evidence of the company’s taste and production values. 

As the scenes progress, the two women approach a kind of sisterhood, until Bianca (Kala Roquemore) arrives. Bianca has lured Desdemona into prostitution and initiates her into one of the more specialized practices of the trade while Emilia (and the audience) watch. The two indulge in a brief Bacchic episode leading into a cat fight over an assumed liaison between Desdemona and Bianca’s betrothed Roderigo. (Or was it Cassio?)

Slews of character and exposition, however, are lost by garbled and inept Irish and Cockney accents by Roquemore and Shaver. I estimate that approximately 30 percent of Vogel’s well-crafted, painstaking dialogue was decipherable by the audience. However, Jenkins more than holds her own as Desdemona, accent and all, and is reason enough for the SET to select and stage the play.

Though flawed, the best of SET’s intentions here ensure that there are much better things to come from this small but ambitious theater company.

Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief, Feb. 14-16 and 20-23, 7:30 p.m.Thursdays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. $15, $10 for students. Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 E. Cache la Poudre St. For more, call 357-3080 or visit springsensembletheatre.org.

  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Game of Thrones series writer coming to TheatreWorks Sunday

Posted By on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 4:28 PM

game_of_thrones_logo.jpg

This Sunday, Bryan Cogman, co-producer and a writer on HBO’s Game of Thrones will come to TheatreWorks to give a free lecture on “Storytelling, Fans and Writing for TV.” UCCS assistant professor Christopher Bell and communications graduate Tony Mitchell will also speak.

It all goes down at 2:30 p.m. at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater. No reservations are necessary.

According to a GOT Wiki website, Cogman has penned three whole episodes so far, one in each season, and has worked on the full series as a script editor and writer, as well as this:
He also serves as the unofficial "keeper of the mythos" for the show. He also wrote the series bible outlining character and background information for other writers, actors and crew to consult. 

  • Favorite

Tags: , , ,

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review: Stewart and McKellen return in No Man's Land

Posted By on Sat, Jan 25, 2014 at 4:11 PM

Editor’s Note: Earlier this week, Indy theater critic Terry Gibson wrote a review of Waiting for Godot, half of a two-part play series on Broadway that stars Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Here, he offers his thoughts on No Man’s Land, the other play at hand. Again, should you be fortunate enough to have the means, tickets are on sale here.

The circumstances at Broadway’s historic Cort Theater on West 48th Street in New York are these:

Hirst, meticulously played by Sir Patrick Stewart, is a retired poet and man of letters. He has lost himself in a sea of alcohol, affluence and delusion, and can’t decide whether or not to remain that way. He employs two manservants to protect and keep him captive until he expires. He consumes sultanate portions of expensive whiskey with a kind of infantile craving. He crawls on the floor in precisely tailored suits and emits pointless fragments of wit, irony and an upper-class Edwardian pride of yesteryear: “There are places in my heart which no man can ever trespass,” for instance. The servants look on with brute insensitivity, sticking to their job descriptions, replenishing the liquor, idling along for the luxurious ride.

Hirst is his own Titanic, it seems, the embodiment of a fading, squandered empire. No course remains but to nourish him as needed and usher-in his spasmodic demise. “Another whiskey!” he commands, and all oblige. Down we go into the icy water. God Save the Queen.

To the rescue comes Spooner, also an accomplished poet, now scraping by as a 75-year-old pub hand for a few quid and a plate of bangers and mash. Where he lives and rests from this existence is a matter of horrifying conjecture. Though clearly undefeated, he is unmistakably on the far side of genteel Blakean poverty. He wears a lifelessly frayed and ill-fitting grey suit and moves with constant antsiness and agitation. He appeals and appalls at the same time.

Spooner derives his strength and freedom, he claims, from never having been loved. “I looked up once into my mother’s face,” he assures his host, and “what I saw there was nothing less than pure malevolence.” Still, “I am I,” he trumpets, a matchless metaphysical heavyweight. “My faculties remain intact,” and in Harold Pinter’s unforgettable and beautifully acted No Man’s Land we watch enthralled as those faculties, in the consummate hands of Sir Ian McKellen, go to work. “Experience is a paltry thing,” Spooner says, and a brazen, heroic treatment of Hirst begins.
1016331_255373397963774_1387755800_n.jpg

This venture fills the theater with gales of laughter and appreciation. Pinter locates and enters a black hole in our psychic universe and radars back a blueprint for earthly survival that inspires and fascinates. It’s a phobic abyss that can only be described and experienced by implication, by the acutest poetic insight and the clearest diagnostic language suitable for theater. Pinter exhilarates his audiences with the discovery that the English language is fully capable of such extrasensory decoding, of the capacity to restore, humor and heal a soul in total resignation.

Women, real or imagined, are the topic for Hirst’s rehabilitation. To recall correctly, to attach the right names to faces and countryside locales, is the reviving challenge for him, a certifying foothold for Spooner, and means of establishing a former place in the select warrens of the literary leisure class. “This is scandalous!” thunders Hirst, in furious defense of one Arabella Hinscott, a young acquaintance of their day “of the most refined and organized sensibilities.” Spooner remembers her differently, and Pinter’s resort to a verbal thrust-and-parry over the alleged vices of Ms. Hinscott provokes and tantalizes the audience with lively English roguishness. 

Meanwhile, Spooner is threatened and antagonized by Hirst’s near-mutinous guardians, Briggs and Foster. Shuler Hensley and Billy Crudup perform these roles superbly as polar opposites; Hensley as if made of explosive cement, Crudup with the quicksilver deviance of Tybalt. Polishing a teaspoon for Hensley resembles an act of violence; tales of Bali by Crudup either scorch or befog Spooner with menacing ambiguity.

McKellen fends them off with deft rhetorical ease, though they are by no means shuffling presences. As in other works by Pinter, visitors or guests like Spooner often take possession of their host’s surroundings, claiming title on an alarming instinctive basis. Yet they must avert harm or threats of expulsion when doing so.

No Man’s Land is no stroll in the park to direct. Sean Mathias of this production establishes himself at the forefront of such practitioners; movement on the stage is continuous but unobtrusive, our eyes and attention always directed where they should be. There are no false moves, exaggerations or actorish mannerisms to distract us from the business at hand.

It gives nothing away to report that Mathias finishes the play with a tableau of moral relativism, an image of uncertainty about what will happen next, and why. In a world of consuming indifference, Pinter theatrically posits, it’s all up to us to decide, if we will at all. “I’ll drink to that,” says Hirst. Cheers.

No Man’s Land, through March 30. Cort Theater 138 W. 48th St., New York City, New York. Tickets: $40-$137; for more, call 212/239-6200 or visit twoplaysinrep.com.


  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Waiting for Godot on Broadway starring Sirs Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart

Posted By on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Editor's Note: On a recent trip to New York City, Indy theater critic Terry Gibson took in a production of No Man's Land, by Harold Pinter, and Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, the main characters played by Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. For those interested in Broadway from afar — you know who you are — here are his thoughts on Godot. Should you have the means, tickets are still available.

Yes, this is the famous Godot who does not show up to keep his appointments. And it’s the play where nothing happens — twice. Mr. Stewart plays the reasoning Vladimir, Mr. McKellen the hopeful Estragon.

Without noting too many particulars, their predicament can be described as follows: While waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragon pass the time on what seem the most improbable of topics, from carrots and boots to biblical absurdities, comically grasping at relevance for their own entertainment (and ours) as if practiced vaudevillian routines.

Semantic stalemates, blind alleys and logical incoherence are Beckett’s order of the day.

gfx_keyart.png

Director Sean Mathias’ set, exchanging Beckett’s “country road and tree” for an industrial scrap heap, seems to have led Vladimir and Estragon to a toxic dead-end or secluded, heavy-labor purgatory. To the audience, vacated wharves and warehouse districts come to mind. Or Baltimore. It’s a place, frankly, you can’t blame Godot for not showing up to.

They will endure at this location as long as their carrots hold out, or Godot arrives. They’re a patient and trusting pair. Whatever terms, conditions or excuses Godot may put forward, he is acquitted in advance of any negligence, false statements or unseemly motives. He could never be the kind of guy to abandon such willing subordinates to the violent whims and loneliness of such a place. Like many responsible for our well-being, be it priest, politician or deity, Godot must have his reasons and it is not our place to doubt or question them, only respond or wait with dignity and in good faith, which Vladimir and Estragon obediently do.

Sound familiar? It is.

What compels and unsettles in Mathias’ production is not Godot’s inability to meet his commitments, but his possible unwillingness or lack of necessity to in the first place. If he does show up, this Godot, or whoever he is, he’s got a heck of a lot of explaining to do. Unfortunately, and catastrophically, he probably hasn’t the faintest idea or concern about what to do or tell his waiting disciples to begin with; and this possibility becomes a probability as his obligations and desires seem even more remote and inscrutable to us all.

Into this setting enter Pozzo and Lucky, and an allegorical sideshow of sorts takes over. They’re an abbreviated version of the world beyond the scrapheap, where people live as either self-indulgent masters or dependent, toiling slaves. They pause for Pozzo to refresh himself, to socialize with Vladimir and Estragon, and enjoy Lucky’s talents for thinking and dancing at Pozzo’s command. Then they leave the scene, only to return in Act II significantly diminished and enfeebled. They have no recollection of their encounter with Vladimir and Estragon the previous day. They deliver the first of Beckett’s unembroidered forebodings of cosmic randomness, and depart again.

Shuler Hensley and Billy Crudup perform these roles ably, if somewhat hurriedly, Mathias not allowing Pozzo (Hensley) the reflective notes and moodiness Beckett supplies. The play is full of explicit directions from Beckett for actors to pause, hesitate or remain silent; Mathias disregards them. Crudup more or less throws away Lucky’s rambling disquisition in a blur of speech and frenzied acrobatics. With it, Beckett’s panoramic satire is tossed aside as well. Both Pozzo/Lucky scenes are handled dismissively, the humor, power and pathos they add diluted by hasty, mistrustful direction.

We are finally given a sketchy outline of Godot in the play’s final moments, from a boy sent to assure and console Vladimir and Estragon of Godot’s arrival and good intentions: he has a white beard and he does nothing. He will not come today, but promises to tomorrow.

We know already how Godot keeps his promises, and by now Vladimir has had his fill of the whole thing. “Habit is a great deadener,” he concedes. It’s a fact of existence that is manifestly to Godot’s advantage and their defeat. Beckett is unerring when situating characters in a gray area between resistance and revolution on the one hand, or dependence and withdrawal on the other. Ultimately it’s a standoff, and no amount of imagination, distraction, or pious devotion can keep from returning us right back where we started in doubt, uncertainty and fear. “I can’t go on like this,” Estragon confesses. “That’s what you think,” Vladimir counters and, as in the beginning, there is “nothing to be done.” Curtain down. End of play.

It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine the play better served than it is by Sirs McKellen and Stewart, who have been performing Godot together for five years. They laugh, cry, embrace, cajole and harass each other with total believability and chemistry. The capacity audiences are thoroughly overtaken and engaged. The ovation at curtain is long, warm and genuinely indebted.

Waiting for Godot, through March 30. $40-$127. Cort Theater, 138 W. 48th St., New York City, twoplaysinrep.com.

  • Favorite

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: The Wizard of Oz at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Editor's Note: This review was written by the Indy's new theater critic, Terry Gibson. Look out for more reviews in future issues and on the IndyBlog.

Pizza can be a risky proposition in Colorado Springs.

In many establishments you are served only a semblance of the authentic item, as if someone, a visiting uncle from Pittsburgh, perhaps, had long ago described to the chef what real pizza looked like, and the chef based his (or her) creation on what could be vaguely remembered of that.

Not so with musicals. If you’re gonna step onstage in this town, you gotta belt it out with the best of ‘em.

Drop in on the splendid, spare-no-expense production of The Wizard of Oz, now running at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and see. You’ll be thoroughly pleased and gratified. Transported, in fact, right to Broadway.

Audiences today are a tough challenge for such an enterprise. Many Boomer adults, having grown up with annual screenings of the 1940 film version starring Judy Garland, embrace The Wizard of Oz with a curious hodgepodge of mild cynicism and left-wing wish-fulfillment.

Finding shortly after graduation that they are indeed, like Dorothy and Judy, no longer in Kansas anymore, they see Dorothy’s unintended dropping of a house on the Wicked Witch of the East as emancipating, that is, as setting free “the little people,” represented by the Munchkins, from class struggle. No kidding.

The FAC's Oz is a beautiful production. - CSFINEARTSCENTER.ORG
  • csfineartscenter.org
  • The FAC's Oz is a beautiful production.

Munchkinland itself, ruled by a benevolent singing mayor and such fierce organizations of working-class militancy as the Lolly-Pop Guild, is a gloriously egalitarian place, where “from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs” reigns supreme. The great and powerful Oz has an alarming facial resemblance to comrade Lenin, and the man behind the curtain manipulating the whole shebang is a prototype of Rupert Murdoch, or William Randolph Hearst, justly exposed and humiliated. The Wicked Witch of the West finally gets what’s coming to her, and like the bourgeois nation-state, withers away, “in all [her] beautiful wickedness.” That sort of thing.

In a sense, these whims are on target. As noted elsewhere and in the FAC program, Oz lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg was reverently admired by his peers as “the social conscience of Broadway,” a man ardently “dedicated to social justice.” He conceived and wrote the words for “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (1938), the near-sacred theme song of the Depression, and accented Dorothy’s journey down the Yellow Brick Road with clever hints of utopianism. Lines of Harburg’s like “We get up at twelve and start to work at one, take an hour for lunch and then at two we’re done — jolly good fun!” have simmered and lingered in the minds of the disenchanted for generations.

Director Scott RC Levy’s production brushes aside these middle-aged musings, however, and freshly recaptivates viewers with a masterly use of musical comedy ingredients, full steam ahead and then some.

Dorothy’s Kansas is rendered with a bleak but elegant landscape mural backdrop, reminiscent of Thomas Hart Benton, and the rapidly changing locales from Munchkinland to Witches Castle and back are equally pleasing to the eye. Christopher L. Sheley is the show’s imaginative and accomplished scenic designer. In addition, conductor Jay Hahn’s pliant small orchestra delivers a zestful melodic range and richness; and the choreography from Mary Ripper-Baker is danced with energy and well-rehearsed precision. Though some dancers are clearly lighter on their feet than others, there is no outright flat-footedness or by-the-numbers rigidity to the ensemble — even children execute their moves like aspiring pros.

Levy could slow down his scene changes, though. We tend to forget that Dorothy and her friends are travelling from place to place; instead they seem to land too abruptly in certain scenes, dropping out of nowhere. Denizens of the Emerald City, for instance, look a little lost at first, and then a sort of ‘Wait, where are we again?’ moment ensues, and they begin. Oh, well. When in doubt, dance. And they do. This bunch can’t wait for the music to start, nor can we.

Yet the sly references made by the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Cowardly Lion as to the divine source of their creation — “the Lord” — at the top of their solos, are violating and should be promptly removed. Harburg and author L. Frank Baum would howl at the insolence and presumption of such underhanded quackery, and rightfully so. Many in the audience at intermission and after the show complained of it.

If the principals occasionally act better than sing, or sing better than act, it is evident only in the beginning of their journey to Oz, and not jarring. By the time they are off to see the Wizard as a unit, they’re a united ensemble of their own, in full syncopation with the music and each other. The story either compensates or allows for varied acting approaches, even idiosyncratic ones, and there are a few moments of candid but pleasing awkwardness in this respect.

Still, Lacey Connell never fails to convince us of Dorothy’s feverish mix of astonishment and determination, and her longing to relocate somewhere “Over the Rainbow” is tenderly sung and sincere. Jason Lythgoe has all the jangly, loose-jointed charm of the Ray Bolger original, contrasting well with the athletic vigor of Zachary Guzman’s Tin Woodsman, and Brian Harris’ philosophically detached Cowardly Lion. Harris’ Lion seems to have spent many hours stoically wandering the forest, giving this ‘courage’ thing a good going-over; and Mr. Guzman bursts with an unsparing, downstage center fix of old-time vaudeville hoofing. Eryn Carman, Levy and Jen Lennon are seasoned performers, vividly expressive and clear, with powerful voices as the Wicked Witch, the fraudulent Oz, and Glinda respectively.

To Oz? To Oz.

The Wizard of Oz
Through Dec. 29, Thursdays through Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Tickets: $37-$47, $15 for students and kids; for more, call 634-5583 or visit csfineartcenter.org.



  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review: One for the Road by Springs Ensemble Theatre

Posted By on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 7:44 PM

SET stays painfully true to Pinter's work.
  • SET stays painfully true to Pinter's work.
Editor's note: This review was written by Terry Gibson, whose review of TheatreWorks' It's a Wonderful Life appears in Wednesday's paper.

A refined and cultivated brotherhood of sadists is standing by in leisure to gouge out your eyeballs with a rusty spoon while praising the tonalities of Wagner or Proust.

In One for the Road by Harold Pinter, staged with unflinching fidelity by Sarah S. Shaver at Springs Ensemble Theatre, we are proffered a 40-minute vignette by one of these moral pygmies, a soulless mercenary casually implementing a minor facet of the “full spectrum dominance” of our woeful time. Yet he never lays a hand on anyone, at least not in our presence. We hear no screams of anguish or pain. (Well, a little maybe.) That is for lesser playwrights than Pinter who, as in his full-length masterpiece The Birthday Party, keeps such theatrical shenanigans tactfully offstage.

Besides, Pinter’s focus is on other, more significant matters, such as this:

With no identity of their own, these Neanderthals of officialdom are fascinated by those who actually have one, be it man, woman, or child. They murder, castrate, rape or maim not as punishment, per se, but for a momentary glimpse of the moral coordinates so plain to the rest of us, but of which they are knowingly blind.

In the case of One for the Road, Pinter gives us a man named Nicolas (Karl Brevik) who holds captive a young family of moderate subversives who’ve done nothing other than tarnish the name of a man he admired. “He didn’t think, he lived!” Nicolas hectors to make his point.

Indeed, Pinter had a remarkable career dramatizing the discrepancy between thinking and living, the possible or the necessary, even strength and expertise. Using religion, politics, or globalization as a guise, what actually takes place between Nicolas and his subjects is a battle of ontic priorities, a contest of sorts between modes of being that go deep, and often animate, our floundering, convulsive civilization. You can probably guess who comes out on top; many we vote into high office. They smile and make speeches, launch missiles, and wave back to us.

For his plays, his works of poetry and prose, and his extraordinary campaign to free political dissidents and publicly challenge the Reagan/Thatcher regime, Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2005. He died of esophageal cancer three years later, and will long remain and be remembered as one of the major creative forces of our time.

In SET's production of One for the Road, both Matt Radcliffe as Victor the husband, and Miriam Roth Ballard as his wife, offer a naturalism, conviction and restraint for which we are truly grateful and absorbed. (Disclosure: Radcliffe is a graphic designer at the Indy.) And Shaver has such a keen, instinctive use of the space to highlight their abilities.

If Brevik’s lines on occasion sound a bit transistorized and flat, no matter — he captures the Epicurean delight of Nicolas with certainty and the calculated aplomb of a cruise-ship entertainment director. Aidan Carter is a charming and intelligent boy, and as Radcliffe and Ballard’s son, he displays a true sense of an actor’s spontaneity and freshness, a thing many performers spend lifetimes striving for.

All told, Pinter would be quite pleased with this production. My, how we wish he were still here to see it.

One for the Road, directed by Sarah S. Shaver, running time: 40 minutes
Dec. 12-14, 8 p.m.
Springs Ensemble Theatre, 1903 E. Cache la Poudre St.
Tickets $10, student rush $8; for more, call 357-3080 or visit springsensembletheatre.org.




  • Favorite

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Wicked Witch of the West strikes the FAC

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 3:02 PM

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center meant well with yesterday’s publicity stunt leading up to their theater production for The Wizard of Oz.
FAC hot air balloon fail
  • Ashley Thompson and Evan Richardson
  • Hot air balloon next to the trees; what could go wrong?

But things got a little hairy.

Despite what the Gazette’s coverage would lead you to believe, it wasn’t all ruby slippers and yellow brick roads. Thanks to an errant breeze and a sharp tree, the kids and other media witnessed a flailing hot-air balloon punctured by a branch and emergency services. FAC communications director Warren Epstein suffered a broken arm in the incident, but luckily that was the only injury.

And god love the actors, who stayed in character the whole time.


  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wizard of Oz, Floyd and Clea in FAC 2013-14 theater plans

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 9:18 AM

I would guess that most of the 30-plus people who gathered in the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's SaGaJi Theater on Wednesday wondered at first who that stranger was greeting us from the stage. It was none other than Producing Artistic Director Scott RC Levy himself, almost unrecognizable without his trademark goatee. Turns out he shaved it off for his official local acting debut as Man in Chair in the upcoming production of The Drowsy Chaperone. Oh, the sacrifices we make for the theater.

Levy wasted no time getting to the reason we were all there: the announcement of the FAC Theatre Company's 2013-2014 season. And while he seems to be skewing away from the envelope-pushing works of his first season two years ago (Assassins, In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)), the upcoming season does offer a comfortable balance of new and old, light-hearted crowd-pleasers and deeper, more challenging works.

Noises Off by Michael Frayn
Sept. 26 - Oct. 20
Longtime New York Times critic Frank Rich called it "the funniest play written in my lifetime." Now the FAC takes its stab at this backstage farce about the most incompetent actors ever to grace a British stage. One of my personal faves.

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg
Dec. 5 - Dec. 29
For the holiday season, the FAC offers this family favorite adapted by the Royal Shakespeare Company and based almost word-for-word on the classic 1939 film, except for the addition of an entire song ("The Jitterbug") that was cut from that film. Levy promises some serious pyrotechnics in this one.

Play It Again, Sam by Woody Allen
Jan. 30 - Feb. 16
Before it was a successful movie, it was a wildly successful Broadway play, running an amazing 453 performances starting in 1969. Here a neurotic writer who turns to Humphrey Bogart's famous tough-guy character from Casablanca for guidance in wooing women.

Agnes of God by John Pielmeier
March 21 - April 6
Next year's multidisciplinary theme for the FAC is Religion in Civic Life. To tie in with this, the theater company offers a play about a young nun who claims that her dead baby is the result of a virgin conception. An unusually small work for the main stage — in Levy's words, "It's three women and a chair" — this incisive drama raises compelling questions about miracles and faith.

Forever Plaid by Stuart Ross
May 8 - June 1
The ever-popular musical revue about a 1950s close harmony group. Features a boatload of easy-listening tunes like "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing," linked together by the whitest of white-bread gags.

Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky by David Cale, music by Jonathan Kreisberg
June 12-29
Not only will this be the Colorado premiere, but the first licensed production of this dark, off-Broadway musical about an alcoholic country songwriter and his talented young protegé. In fact, this work is so new that the score hasn't been published. "We have the chord progressions and the recordings," Levy said. "But we're actually going to be writing down the score so that other theater companies can produce it."

Levy also ran down the schedule at the FAC's Second Stage, where the focus has been on smaller shows and experimental works:

WYNOT Radio Theatre: The Short Hello by Cory Moosman and Sammy Gleason
Nov. 14 - Dec. 1
You've laughed your butt off at this comedy troupe's previous parodies of old-time radio. Now you can catch the world premiere of their fifth stage show, The Short Hello, with all new commercials and serials and a send-up of Casablanca starring everyone's favorite detective, Rick Luger. And yes, the famous smoking baby will be back.

The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris
Dec. 19 - Jan. 5
If you listen to NPR's This American Life, you already know Sedaris is one of the funniest men on the planet. Here he dramatizes his real-life and extremely uncensored experience as a department-store Christmas elf.

Pinkalicious the Musical by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann
March 27 - April 6
A cute children's musical based on the popular picture books about a girly-girl who loves cupcakes so much she turns pink.

2013 Rough Writers
April 24 - May 4
This month, the FAC will do a staged reading of the four full-length and six short plays that were named finalists in the inaugural Rough Writers play festival. Next year, they'll give a full production to the full-length play dubbed the winner.

Special events just penciled in for now are a concert performance by comic Paula Poundstone and the return of The Civilians' controversial look at the Colorado Springs evangelical community, This Beautiful City. The play was given a script-in-hand performance at Colorado College in 2009, but Levy is hoping to do a full production this time.

On a side note, Knuffle Bunny is currently going strong in the FAC's Music Room, and the run has just been extended for one more weekend. If you haven't seen this sweet musical about a little girl who loses her favorite stuffed animal, you've got only five more chances to catch it: Friday, April 5, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Saturday, April 6, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Call 634-5583 or visit csfineartscenter.org for tickets.

  • Favorite

Tags: , ,

Thursday, March 21, 2013

TheatreWorks' 2013-2014 season is here

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 2:28 PM

TheatreWorks, Venus in Fur
  • TheatreWorks

In case you missed it, TheatreWorks recently announced its lineup for the 2013-2014 season, and as usual, it's a heady mix of classics and new works. Without further ado ...

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare for TW's Shakespeare in the Park
Aug. 1-24

Seven Guitars by August Wilson
Sept. 12-29

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Oct. 24 through Nov. 10

It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play by Joe Landry
Dec. 5-22

The Weir by Conor McPherson
Jan. 23 through Feb. 9

TheatreWorks, A Servant of Two Masters
  • TheatreWorks

Woyzeck by Georg Büchner for the UCCS Student Production
March 6-16

Venus in Fur by David Ives
March 20 through April 6

The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
April 24 through May 11

And with each show, TW hosts a free Prologue Lecture, featuring, for instance, John Douglas Thompson in conjunction with Cymbeline. Thompson, according to the website, is "considered the greatest Shakespearean Actor [sic] in America." For It's A Wonderful Life, Scott Simon of NPR will speak, and dominatrix Mistriss Djuna will present at Venus in Fur.

Visit the website for more information on each play, including prices, other events, and a write-up on each choice from TW artistic director Murray Ross.

  • Favorite

Tags: ,

Immortal Solstice rescheduled

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Immortal_Solstice_Flyer_04-13-13-1.jpg
  • Caretake and the Graveyard Girlz

If you read the March 6 issue, surely you rushed to get tickets to the March 9 stage show, Immortal Solstice.

If you got your tickets, then you also realized the show was canceled due to organizational issues with the Damon Runyon Theater.

It's time to stop all that moping around and pouting.

Caretaker and the Graveyard Girlz quickly took action to make sure the world gets another chance to see this mixed-media story of their (pseudo) origin.

At 7 p.m. April 13, doors to the Pueblo Community College Hoag Theatre will open. Tickets will be $12 for adults, $6 for students, and $10 for presale tickets. Already-purchased tickets will be honored at the new venue.

  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, January 28, 2013

A peek at the Fine Arts Center's upcoming Families and more

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Families are such powerful subjects in art. Take any image of Abraham and Isaac for the high drama, or some Dutch Baroque-period works for serenity. Both situations are gripping, at least in their own way.

But what about families of today? They certainly look different now, with same-sex couples, more single parents and the like.

That's the aim behind the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's next multidisciplinary show, Families, which kicks off Feb. 23. Like Conflict | Resolution and NASA | Art: 50 Years of Exploration before it, Families will encompass the museum, the theater and the Bemis School of Art.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Progressive

The museum has scheduled A Family Affair: Selections from the Progressive Art Collection and Mother: Photographs by Carol S. Dass. The former is a multimedia exhibit from the insurance corporation, which has accrued more than 7,800 pieces since it started collecting contemporary art in 1974. Mother, meanwhile, is a series of pictures taken by local artist Dass, as she grows to experience her mother as a person beyond "that role of the woman who carried me in her womb, raised me the best that she could, and will in many ways continue to view me as a child regardless of my age."

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Progressive
  • Courtesy of the Progressive Corporation.
  • TR Ericsson, "Everyday is Like Sunday," Porcelain decorated in blue toile. Edition 1/3, 2006.

Over on the theater side, the FAC will produce Other Desert Cities, a new play that follows a fictitious, semi-famous Palm Springs family about to unravel when one daughter brings home her draft of a tell-all memoir. Other Desert Cities was nominated for five Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. This show will be the Colorado premiere of the play.

As part of its second-stage season (a handful of plays and events held in the Music Room upstairs), the FAC will also put on Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, an all-ages musical about a trip to the laundromat that goes terribly wrong. (For those of you who've ever lost a beloved toy, you know what I mean.) It's based on the award-winning children's book by Mo Willems (a big-time Emmy winner), who helped convert it to the stage with Grammy-winning composer Michael Silversher.

Rough Writers, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Come April, the second-stage season will also bring about Rough Writers: A New Play Fest. For this, the FAC put out a call for scripts that respond to one of three works in the Families exhibits. About 12 chosen submissions — which can be 10 minutes, or one act, or a full full-length play or musical — will then be read to the audience for feedback, and then those will be judged by "a panel of theatre professionals" which will decide on a winning script to be fully staged in the FAC's big theater next season.

By the way, you can still submit a script; entries are due Feb. 14.

Ormao Dance Company will also perform an original piece for the FAC from April 12 through 14, and the Story Project will hold a session based on the idea of contemporary family struggles April 5.

Lastly, Bemis has scheduled a full slate of classes for all ages, from kids museum tours to a wine and watercolor course.

  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Help TheatreWorks with RED

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 10:11 AM

TheatreWorks, RED
  • TheatreWorks

Got an old set of brushes? Glass mason jars or paint cans?

You're probably an artist if you have ephemera like this lying around, and if you want to rid yourself of it, or help TheatreWorks, take it to the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre lobby any time today, tomorrow or Monday for the company to use in its upcoming production of RED, a play about artist Mark Rothko.

TheatreWorks is currently building the set and asking folks via Facebook for donations. Unfortunately, anything you give won't be returned, so only bring old cast-offs, nothing you'll want back.

For more information, call 255-3232.

  • Favorite

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: You Can't Take It With You

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2012 at 9:55 AM

Timeless.

The word gets thrown about like confetti these days, being used to describe everything from diamonds to overpriced skin care products.

But that’s the best word to describe You Can’t Take It With You, the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy that opened at TheatreWorks last weekend. While most plays from its era are forgotten now, the humor in this play still works, the story still sings.

And typically, that's its biggest problem. A longtime favorite of high school and community theaters alike, You Can't Take It With You has been seen so often and by so many people it’s easy to forget how radical its message of individuality was when it debuted in 1937. (See our preview of the play here.)

Tony (Sean Scrutchins) gives Alice (Jamie Ann Romero) an offer she cant refuse
  • GEOFFREY KENT
  • Tony (Sean Scrutchins) gives Alice (Jamie Ann Romero) an offer she can't refuse

Thankfully, it's not a problem here. By mining George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s witty dialogue for new meaning, Denver-based director Geoffrey Kent makes this production not just timeless, but timely.

It all takes place in the main room of the Sycamore house, which in David M. Barber's design is so warm and inviting you’ll wish you could move in. And for a time, you do. One of the brilliant touches to the design is that the entrance to the home is built right into the entrance to the theater. To get to your seat, you have to step through the foyer of the house.

This made it a little confusing when early in the first act, a pair of latecomers made a rather dramatic entrance of their own. But there's no denying that this layout pulls you right in, making the story your story too.

It’s here where the members of the wildly eccentric Sycamore family pursue their passions. Mother (a charmingly scatter-brained Gabriella Cavallero) is writing several plays, some religious, some brimming with sex. Daughter Essie (a comically gawky Missy Moore) pirouettes around the house in a pink tutu. Father (the always dependable Tom Paradise) manufactures firecrackers in the basement. And Grandpa (an infinitely likable Ken Street), having dropped out of society after adopting the identity of their deceased mailman, now spends his days attending high school commencements for fun.

“The world’s not so crazy,” Grandpa says. “Just the people in it.”

Into this chaos enters younger daughter Alice. Played by the extremely versatile Jamie Ann Romero (you may remember her heartbreaking performance as Nina in TheatreWorks' production of The Seagull), she's the only "normal" one in the family. At least, she's the only one with a job.

She's been dating her handsome young boss Tony (the impossibly suave Sean Scrutchins), and now she believes he's on the verge of proposing.

The only problem? Tony insists on bringing his terminally strait-laced parents for dinner, and Alice knows their relationship will never survive the fireworks (both literal and figurative) that are sure to come.

Just another typical day at the Sycamore house

It’s a setup that has launched a thousand sitcom episodes. But here it takes on a depth that's really quite surprising for such a lighthearted play. It's not just a conflict of personalities. Instead, it strikes to the very heart of how we choose to live our lives.

There are so many wonderful performances in this production, it would be impossible to describe them all. But I’ll highlight three more.

Logan Ernstthal steals every scene he’s in as the booming-voiced Russian who’s supposed to teach Essie how to dance but spends most of his time dispensing unasked-for — and hilariously mangled — advice to the other members of the family. And that black broom-head of a beard he's got is so impressive it should get its own credit in the program.

Bruce Carter turns prudishness into a high art form as the stone-faced father of Tony.

And I can't forget Ashley Crockett, who makes an all-too-brief appearance as a hammy, washed-up drunk of an actress (see figure on couch above).

If you’re wondering how all this insanity fits into the holiday season, don’t worry. In the end, one character makes a transformation as far-reaching as any made by George Bailey or Ebenezer Scrooge.

The difference? This one’s a whole lot funnier.

You Can't Take It With You
Through December 23, Wednesdays through Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday matinees, 2 p.m.; Sunday matinees 4 p.m. TheatreWorks, Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle. Tickets, $8-$35, free for UCCS students. Call TheatreWorks at 255-3232 or visit theatreworkscs.org for more.

  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: A Christmas Story

Posted By on Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 6:07 PM

"You'll shoot your eye out!

"I triple-dog dare you!"

"I can't put my arms down!"

Is there a more quotable movie than A Christmas Story? Around my house at least, it’s the one film no one ever gets tired of. With its dry humor and unsentimental look at middle-class American childhood, this 1983 comedy provides the perfect antidote to sappier holiday fare.

The Old Man (Tom Auclair) gets a little too cozy with his Major Award
  • Jeff Kearney
  • The Old Man (Tom Auclair) gets a little too cozy with his Major Award

Which may explain why it’s the basis for not one but two very different stage productions. The musical version, famous for its leg lamp kick line, debuted on Broadway in November. The one that just opened at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is the decidedly non-musical but wildly funny version published in 2000 by Philip Grecian, a Kansas playwright who has a long association with Colorado’s Creede Repertory Theatre.

The play, like the movie, is set in 1938 in Hohman, Indiana, a fictionalized version of the real-life hometown of radio personality Jean Shepherd, who wrote the original stories. There, 9-year-old Ralphie Parker wants nothing more for Christmas than “an official Red Rider carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass and this thing that tells time right in the stock.” But everyone from his parents to his beloved teacher to Santa himself gives him the same ominous warning: “You’ll shoot your eye out!"

Potential land mines abound in adapting anything so well-known and well-loved for the stage. But Grecian balances a very narrow tightrope, resurrecting the most iconic dialogue to make long-time fans happy while adding enough new material to keep it fresh. And director Joye Cook Levy adds plenty of comic touches of her own. (Read the Indy's preview of the play here.)

One of these is making the adult Ralphie more than just a narrator but a character in his own right. Here he moves in and out of scenes, watching the action up close and egging his younger self on when all seems lost. Still wearing the oversized spectacles of his youth, this Ralph is played by Jason Lythgoe, a multi-talented actor who must have figured out a way to clone himself because it seems as though he’s appeared in every local play this year.

At times, I did think his delivery was rushed, preventing the audience time from soaking in all of Ralph’s colorfully phrased commentary. But Lythgoe gave the character a nerdy, self-effacing quality that contrasted nicely with his more folksy persona in the film.

The most dangerous part of any theater critic’s job is reviewing kids. To be honest, it’s often more convenient (and safer) to ignore them altogether. I can’t get away with that here because the seven young actors in the cast form the heart and soul of the piece. So I’m glad — and more than a little relieved — to say that they’re all terrific.

In the long run, is an eye really all that important?
  • Jeff Kearney
  • In the long run, is an eye really all that important?

Ralphie is played by Evan Lennon, a spirited seventh-grader who brings a winning pluckiness to the part. Finn Dufford is hilariously obnoxious as little brother Randy, getting laughs each time he whines, "I gotta go wee-wee!" And London Lyle lends an innocent charm to a new role created for the play, that of Esther Jane, Ralphie’s budding young love interest.

My only critique (here goes!) is that some of the kids could have projected a little more, as their smart-alecky banter was sometimes hard to hear.

I may be committing heresy here, but I've got to admit there's one weakness with the film. I’ve always thought the story was too episodic, with nothing tying one scene to the next. That’s not the problem here. Grecian extends many of the scenes and ties them all together in ways that heighten the tension and provide a much bigger payoff.

For example, in the movie, the turkey is little more than an afterthought. But in the play, the Old Man (an amusingly grumpy Tom Auclair) spends quite a bit of time planning for and mooning over and rhapsodizing about the big bird, so when it finally disappears in a perfect storm of furry fury, the whole scene comes across much funnier.

The elaborate set, designed by R. Thomas Ward, is its own Christmas miracle, effortlessly transforming from classroom to department store to the simple but cozy home where Ralphie dreams his spectacular hipshot-fueled dreams. That house is used to full advantage in a very funny, wordless sequence in which Mother (the always good Eryn Carman) and the Old Man battle for control of the legendary leg lamp.

That leg lamp, by the way, can be yours for a measly $5, if you’re lucky enough to win the raffle that the FAC is holding.

But if you do win it, be careful. It’s fra-jee-lay.

A Christmas Story
Through Dec. 23, Thursdays through Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees, 2 p.m. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, SaGaJi Theater, 30 W. Dale St. Tickets, $27-$37. Call the box office at 634-5583 or visit csfineartscenter.org for more info.

  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 15, 2012

WYNOT Radio Theatre launches Indiegogo campaign

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 4:10 PM

It must be exhausting, being Cory Moosman and Sammy Gleason. Not only do they write all of the material for WYNOT Radio Theatre, not only do they maintain one of the craziest performance schedules in the Pikes Peak region, hauling their 200-plus props from gig to gig, but this year they've also been hitting up regional theaters across the country, hoping to break into the big time.

Sammy Gleason with just one of WYNOT Radio Theatre's 200-plus props
  • CORY MOOSMAN
  • Sammy Gleason with just one of WYNOT Radio Theatre's 200-plus props

"There's booking conferences that we're looking at," Moosman says. "And we're looking at a couple of different regional fringes, going back to Boulder Fringe, looking at Phoenix Fringe. I mean, it is as close to door-to-door-sales as you can probably get —"

"Without having a vacuum cleaner in your car," Gleason adds.

Next year, they hope to land some of these gigs so they can go on their first real tour.

There's just one problem. They don't have a good way to get there.

Which is why, on Nov. 4, they launched their first crowdfunding campaign. Working through Indiegogo, they hope to raise $10,000 so they can buy a gently used van as well as a 5- by 8-foot box trailer to carry all those zany props. (To visit their Indiegogo page, click here.)

Contributors get some nifty premiums. Donate as little as a buck and you get your name listed on the side of the van. For $100, you get an autographed copy of their hilarious CD. Throw in a cool grand and you get your name written into a future show.

They're off to a respectable start. As of this morning, they'd raised $1,305 with 45 days left to go.

In the meantime, they continue to juggle that crazy schedule. This weekend they're performing their last four shows of Death Wore Elevator Shoes at the Millibo Art Theatre (1367 Pecan St, themat.org). Then it's off to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (30 W. Dale St., csfineartscenter.org) for their Christmas show, It Came Upon a Midnight Deadly. That one runs Dec. 13-30.

And they continue to tweak, perfecting the show so they'll be ready when that big break comes.

"We've had time to develop and grow what the show is," Moosman says. "A lot of it's been finessing and just speeding and trimming because you get it right or you die."

  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Most Commented On

Top Topics in IndyBlog

City Gov (13)


Local News (12)


Food & Drink (7)


Outdoors (6)


Politics (6)


Most Shared Stories

Top Viewed Stories

All content © Copyright 2016, The Colorado Springs Independent   |   Website powered by Foundation