Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

Don’t bother with Spamalot

About a year and a half ago, my wife and I attended a performance of Spamalot, the Eric Idle musical based on the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, at the National Theatre. It returns to Washington in December, but take my advice and don’t bother seeing it.

Edward II at the Harman

As Jenn mentioned, she and I got to go see the Shakespeare Theater’s production of Edward II on Friday evening. If you’re looking for a review in short: MAN do you have the wrong writer!

Uh.. I mean, if you’re looking for a review in short, I recommend it. The show is free of the scenery-chewing that afflicts some other viewing options, the characters are realized well enough for you to care about them, and the chemistry and interaction between the people on stage is believable and enjoyable. Somewhat unfortunately, while this is a far superior show to Tamburlaine, it doesn’t allow you to really enjoy the space of the new Harman theater as much. There’s nothing wrong with the layout or set but it doesn’t have the “oh wow” factor that the much more open set does in Tamburlaine.

If you’re looking for a longer review… well, try below the fold here.

Tamburlaine at the Harman

Well here’s something I didn’t think I’d ever find myself saying. Peter Marks is far more generous in his remarks than I.

Not to say he isn’t right, and not that there aren’t a few things that I was more impressed by than him. But to lead with the negative, I’m flat-out astonished that the limit of his remarks on Avery Brooks’ performance amount to commenting on his excellent voice – “sonorous basso” and “honeyed tongue,” and “The role is huge, speech-packed and positively exhausting; that he gets through it at all is an achievement.” I’m reminded of the old quote, “It’s not amazing how well the bear dances, but that he dances at all.” The fact that Brooks gets through the role is about the extent of his achievement in Tamburlaine. Well, that and putting teeth marks on every piece of scenery in the place. I was starting to worry I’d be next to be chewed on – and I was up in the balcony.

Telling Stories [through] dance

If children’s theater and crafts aren’t your thing, how about some dance? Watching, not doing – Darpino’s got you covered on the BYOB (bring your own booty) on Friday night.

Saturday and Sunday at the Jack Guidone theater in Friendship Heights there’s an event that purports to put on a show with “ballet, modern, jazz and hip-hop dance.” There’s apparently a connecting thread in the form of an actor-narrator, played by Michael Wiener, who will be a part of all eleven vignettes. Sounds interesting, and seems to have some talented people attached.

Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm
The Joy of Motion Dance Center
5207 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Washington DC 20015

Michael Bobbitt gets his due

Today’s WaPo has an article mentioning Michael Bobbitt’s helming the Adventure Theater in Glen Echo Park as artistic director. The theater’s been newly renovated and is kicking off this Saturday. It’s a pretty fair value at $12 a seat, I think, but you can come enjoy some of the festivities for free, including crafts for the kids, a storyteller at 12:30 and 3p, and tours and a chance to watch some of the rehersal for their upcoming “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” show. If you’re willing to part with some coin the The Secret Garden is at 1:30p

As Micheal is quoted in the Post story, “Where else can you go and see a play and then ride a carousel?” Capitol Weather predicts clear skies and temps in the 50s – not great carousel weather but hey, it’s November.

I’m looking forward to seeing what they do and hope they’re roaringly successful. I’ve met Micheal a few times, most recently at Fringe when attending the show he directed, Queen of the Bohemian Dream. I’m hesitant to mention this, given that it’s one of the couple of shows I never got around to writing up, despite being one of the ones my darling girlfriend and I enjoyed the most.

Of course the real reason I’m ashamed is that I failed to do the writeup after he was so gracious to us personally. We came in having hustled over from another show and found ourselves taking a couple of the last few seats. They were at the top corner of the bleachers…. right under a positively roaring air conditioning vent. When he was walking by I recognized him and waved at him to ask him if I had time to dash out to the car for a coat for my shivering darling girlfriend. He said no, they were about to start… and doffed his own jacket and handed it over. A nice thing to do for anyone, but particularly thoughtful for someone he’d only ever been introduced to in passing. That same generosity comes across on the blog where he writes about some of the goings-ons at Adventure and solicits feedback and suggestions for future shows. Give it a look.

Wait, these are the cheap seats?

If you like your theatrical experiences a little more highfalutin than spoken word poets, how about a little Marlowe? Christopher, not Philip. The Shakespeare Theater is kicking off a new program designed to put more youthful butts in seats and it’s pretty cool. If you happen to be a year or two *cough* younger than me you can take advantage of their new 20/10 program. 20 seats in every single production that week (minus Friday and Saturday) will be set aside to be sold for $10 to anyone 35 or younger. Considering the seats normally run up to $55, that’s a pretty nice deal.

The seats are released every week starting at 10am on Tuesday for the shows through that Sunday. You just need to show up at the Sidney Harman Hall Box Office at 610 F St. NW with ID in hand, otherwise they’ll have to saw you in half and count the rings.

If you’re a little more on the decrepit side you can still enjoy the kickoff for this new program. According to the press release, all the seats for the November 6th opener of Tamburlaine will be sold for $10 when the program’s first week starts tomorrow morning at 10am.

Fringe: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

Metroblogging Chicago has been holding out on us. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind came to Wooly Mammoth by way of the Chicago troupe The Neo-Futurists. Over at Chicago Metblogs there’s at least three different articles that Fuzzy has written about them and their projects.

I managed to get in to see their signature piece at Wooly at the last minute and was glad I did. Presenting thirty plays in sixty minutes, TMLMTBGB is a collection of shorts that are written by the people that are performing them. In this case it was Bilal Dardai, Dean Evans, Sharon Greene, Kristie Koehler, and Jay Torrence. When I got to speak to Sharon after the show I found out exactly what this means to the content of the show.

The neo-futurists are up-front about the way the show is conducted – a clothesline which has the numbers one through thirty hangs across the stage, just out of easy reach – and what hangs on that clothesline changes from show to show, as one or more shows come out of the rotation and are replaced by others. It’s performed by the person who wrote it and may include some or all of the rest of the ensemble.

What’s not obvious from the introduction or the handout is the fact that the neo-futurists are comprised of more than these five performers. Notably more, in fact, as when I asked Sharon about traveling shows or for-hires she said they had enough people to run one or two traveling shows and keep the weekly performances in Chicago running, all at once. Which means that not only does any show you wander into get changed between runs, it gets changed based on the potentially changing cast as well.

The really criminal thing here in this writeup is that I’ve made it to paragraph five before telling you that it was 100% awesome. Every performer was bursting with energy and clearly having a great time, something that made every single play fun even if I didn’t care for it. Not that there were many I didn’t find delightful, though some pieces like 26,558 were moving and powerful and completely delight-free. I’m going to be in Chicago next month, and #1 on my list of things to do is going to be to catch at least one show so I can share this fun with my darling girlfriend.

Fringe: Petpourri

In the interest of finally wrapping this up (not to mention getting a little more content up here today – I think we’re all just in shock that we somehow moved to Oregon and nobody told us), this is the quickest of my remaining Fringe writeups. It’s also the most eh of what I have left.

Petpourri was one of the most common of Fringe maladies, the cabaret show. My darling girlfriend and I went to this one with the expectation that it would be at worst a little treacle-y and and best amusing. We seemed to have been in the minority – a friend’s reaction was “you WENT to that?”

Were this the trainwreck that certain other shows had been I’d give them that as fair play, but it was fine, if not what we expected. The four person cast from the In Series acquitted themselves well enough, though I’d say Richard Tappen consistently performed an order of magnitude better than his costars. One lone song turned up the schmaltz to 11, with another a little heavy on the cheese but acceptable.

The biggest issue I had with it was I found the material uninspired and a little limp. I can hear you already: I decided to go to a cabaret show with a pet theme – what did I expect? Something a little more contemporary (half the material was depression era), maybe a little funnier if not ironic. Ah well. I found the performance and the players impressive enough that I’ll consider going to their upcoming shows, Moon / Dance or maybe Cole & Noel.

Fringe: The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon: A Musical
exists as a perfect counter-point to the suck-fest what was Carrie Potter and the Half-blood Prom. I feel somewhat guilty talking about the two in the same sentence but I just want to underscore what a difference talent, attitude, talent, effort, and talent can make when creating a fun but light-hearted show. Everything else that Carrie Potter had was also in The Blue Lagoon, only used to positive effect rather than lazily.

Writer Jonathan Padget created this little bit of fun based on the book that the movie was based on (who knew?) and staged it in a little room that seated less than fifty.The few props included a hose, kiddie pool, – the lagoon itself, don’t you know – a few suitcases and the inevitable baby. When Kathleen Mason as Emmeline breaks the fourth wall she does it by singing about how she is stranded with her cousin, her first cousin, and she’s only repeating that because it’s going to be significant. Cousin Richard is played by Matthew McGloin as a wonderfully earnest and horny teenage boy who’s happily keeping Emmeline safe… and providing some ‘swimming lessons’ in the lagoon. The point being made about first cousins is pretty well underscored by the arrival of a baby that seems to have 50% more eyesight than its parents. But hey, that just make the baby extra special. And look – Emmeline isn’t fat anymore! How about another swim, cuz?

Hopefully creator Jonathan Padget will find a way to bring The Blue Lagoon around again so some more people can see it, either in stage or some other format. Personally I think it would make a great multi-part youtube feature.

Fringe: Carrie Potter and the Half-Blood Prom

Josh Speerstra as Plucky the ghost elf, Baughman as Jesus the narrator, Jen Tonon as Rhonda

What the hell, I’ve got the knives out and sharpened, let’s get yank this bandaid all the way off so I can start talking about things that didn’t suck. My second-worst Fringe experience this year was Carrie Potter and the Half-Blood Prom. I think what’s worth mentioning here is that dissapointing an audience who’s walked into what is obviously going to be a gag on Harry Potter and the movie Carrie takes some work. None of us walked in the door expecting genius-level writing, brilliant songs, or flawless staging. Instead what we got was the dream made reality for anyone who ever went to see a Cherry Red show and thought to themselves “this would be way better if the staging wasn’t so precise, the story so tight, the acting so regal, the costumes so elaborate, and the cast so awake.”

I honestly feel dirty comparing this show to anything Cherry Red ever offered up. While both groups set out to make something silly and fun, I never once was made to feel in a CR show that they flat out didn’t give a crap how well they did anything. The actors in Carrie Potter wander about, make flubs that stink of a lack of rehearsal, and just overall fail to entertain. Unlike Butter, where you kind of feel bad for the apparent lack of awareness of what’s not good and not working, this show just gave you the sense that they didn’t care.

There’s some funny stuff in here, though it’s over-used in a tedious way. “Transitional song” is probably the best example of this, a piece that Baughman and the band do several times in between scenes. It made me snicker the first time and then was pulled back out again with no improvement or elaboration. Before the show begins Geeky Kid, played by Ally Jenkins, comes out in character and demands all the audience members take a post-it and write a phrase on it that will be read at some point in the show. “Because,” we’re told, “the script isn’t very good.” Could have been funny, but again, done in a half-assed manner. Five minutes into the show Carrie Potter, played by Jennifer Berg, picks one up on the stage floor, where they’ve been scattered, and realizes they’d read that one already. Obviously nobody has considered what to do with the notes once they’re read or if there’s a dupe. Instead it just hits a flat note and we move on.

I came to this show expecting nothing more than goofs and laughs… and that the performers wanted to have fun with us and cared if we had fun. There wasn’t the slightest indication that they gave a rat’s ass, or at least not enough of one to make more than the most minimal of efforts. The next time you take my $15 I’d appreciate a little interest and energy.

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