Today we review six plays: The Divine Madness of Isabella, Gentle Passage, Senses, The Annual Meeting… , Five, and Cycles. More tomorrow~
Wendy Gough wrote and performs this one-woman show about Isabella Andreini, the famous commedia dell’Arte actress and writer of sixteenth century Italy. Isabella herself narrates the story of her life, rise to fame, performances before Europe’s nobility and elite, and ultimate descent into madness. She uses masks to play important people in her life and empty hats to portray other ancillary characters.
Gough is wonderful throughout, keeping a frenetic, yet balanced, pace, all the while juggling the numerous props and character changes.
The play is well-researched and exquisitely crafted, from the florid writing to the delightful masks, puppets and other props (by Beth Wallan and Lori Stone). The attention to detail goes all the way to the beautifully designed program (by Jenn Scuderi), which gives a brief and humorous explanation of the historical figures mentioned in the play.
The Divine Madness of Isabella is performed in the Complex’s Flight Theater June 14 at 7:15 pm, June 17 at 4:15 pm, June 21, 22 and 23 at 9:00 pm and June 24 at 2:15 pm
by Tony Bartolone~
Gentle Passage is an intimate portrait of a man’s life painted as the sun sets on his soul. This is a simple, yet poignant story of a man’s journey to confront his memories as he loses them.
As elderly Joseph desperately tries to work his way into a medical study that could potentially save his life, Anna subjects him to an emotionally thorough screening process. Rigid and cold, Anna slowly grows an affection for the tender-hearted old fool as he reveals his deepest repressions and lost thoughts. The success of this sentimental charmer is in large part due to the adept actors who breath life into these well defined characters beautifully penned by Paul Elliot and Ed Joswick. Rachel Boller plays her part without compromise as she is subtly softened by her counterpart. Anna could easily be unlikeable and irritating, but instead just as her affection grows for Joseph, Miss Boller gracefully endears herself to the audience. Gary Rubenstein gives so much amiable delightfulness to such a tragic character. Instead of overplaying the emotions of circumstance, he effectively plays the reality of the character. Minimal staging (just a fold out table and chairs) really pushes you to invest in this moving, conversational character study about the profound impact two human beings on each other’s lives.
Gentle Passage is performed at ArtWorks Theatre June 15 -22 at 6pm, 14 & 23 at 8pm, and 24 at 4pm.
by Tracey Paleo ~
“Life has the ability to take you on a ride…”
And that exactly describes the deliciously heartbreaking roller coaster production of Senses, written and directed by Abby Wake and now playing at the Underground Theatre Annex.
In the series of threaded short stories, many anonymous women talk about the many faces of love through anguish, relationships, friendships, breakups, hilarious secrets, abandonments and sibling rivalry. Not merely a tearjerker, what Senses delivers is risk-taking, depth and intimacy, extremely hard to come by but so worth the wait. Within the simplicity of the stories, are well-developed, three dimensional characters with live expression, power and vulnerability. Warm, inspiring, soulful. There is so much to take away from this production and the audiences loved it.
Breathtaking performances by Abby Wake who drove this play home one percussive movement and laser focused word at a time; by Annemarie Pazmino whose emotional availability, embraced the audiences; by Rebecca Holopter whose fragility begged so sweetly for love at every turn; and Eileen Boyle whose natural ebullience was magnetic and joyously silly.
Excellent performances by the two men in the cast, and where would any woman be without them, Chris Puckett and Jamie Rush who added, mostly comedy, perspective, loyalty and affection.
Writer/producer Abby Wake is a truly a talented and distinguished voice at the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year.
Senses is performed at the Underground Theatre Saturday, June 16th @ 8:00pm and Thursday, June 21st @ 8:00pm
by Tony Bartolone~
The Annual Meeting is definitely one you should attend. Well written and consummately performed, it is simply an all-around solid one-man show.
Writer T.S. Cook takes us on a journey out to sea, and what we see is a man’s life filtered through the scope of a lone fishing trip. Cook makes no apologies as he takes the audience hostage on an eventful excursion, and we make no effort to escape as Stockholm syndrome sets in. The writing is straightforward, yet so well crafted and rich in metaphor. Comparable to Hemingway, the words are unsentimental, however they inspire a certain sentimentality in those who hear them. As well as being a fisherman, T.S. Cook is a master craftsman of language.
The performance is timed out beautifully, beat for beat. T.S. Cook has such a command over every aspect of his métier. Much like he captains his boat, there is not a moment in the performance when Cook is not one hundred percent in control. To sum it up, it’s a strong vessel with a strong captain.
The Annual Meeting… is performed at ArtWorks Theatre June 14 & 23 at 6pm, 17 & 21 at 8pm and 17 at 4pm.
by Tony Bartolone~
I am by no stretch a dance expert, nor do I pretend to know anything about energy healing choreography. So walking into a movement piece, my body was rushed with trepidation in anticipation. Having said that, the performance was a passionate mix of music, expression and emotion.
It was refreshing to see a story through the filter of dance. It is a much looser, more abstract form of storytelling. The poetry of human bodies can be quite beautiful. So what did the piece have to say? What did these movements mean? There was definitely some emotional trauma mixed into the dance. It seemed the movement wanted to be cyclical. However, there was always a break against those patterns. In terms of relationships, people form patterns of relating when they’re young. And emotionally traumatic events cause people to fall into unhealthy patterns of relating. FIVE is the story of five women breaking out of those unhealthy patterns.
The dancing was strong, the choreography was creative, and the music was interesting. By all means, do not go into this show expecting a traditional drama. Adversely, go in with an open mind and let yourself experience a breath of fresh air.
FIVE is performed at Art Works Theatre June 16, 17, 23 & 24 at 12pm.
~by Brian Sonia-Wallace
Cycles is a short but epic story about revenge in the most unlikely place between the most unexpected people: two real estate agents in a gym. The setting is unusual enough to stand out on the stage, and constant twists keep the audience guessing what will happen next as the action evolves. Fittingly, this two-man play is bursting with testosterone, angry outbursts juxtaposed with the more pensive remorse of men who realize that they have built their lives on a house of cards.
I saw the opening preview of cycle, in which one of the titular exercise bikes was broken. The actors worked around this skillfully and the standard of performances was high, but I could tell that some key material was missing. Other than this, my only complaint was that the play felt somewhat overwritten, bursting with metaphors and dialogue that seemed somewhat at odds with the norms of engagement in the play’s gym setting. The production would have benefited from an extra ten minutes of silence, letting the speech grow organically from the natural rhythms of exercise. Still, moving in crisply at under an hour, Cycles was an engaging diversion.
Cycles performs June 16 at 5.30pm, June 17 at 1pm, June 19 at 10pm, and June 20 at 7pm.