Today we have five regular reviews and two extra reviews: Rue Royal, Virginia City, Rise, Piano Man, Button Wagon and extra reviews for Richard Parker and Gentle Passage
by Tatyana Gelfond
If you’re an actor, one of the oldest rules of delivering a line is not to look like you’re delivering a line, and even though I love all things New Orleans, the jambalaya wasn’t a delight. Rue Royale starts with Sophie (played by Sean Serino), a recent collage grad that has come home to figure out what she wants to do next. In order to avoid woe’s of yester year, she decides to stay with Sarah (played by Melanie Minichino) her childhood friend, and current BFF. Trouble starts when Tommy (Artie Ahr), Sarah’s druggie boyfriend, enters the picture. Actually, the trouble started as soon as this ensemble started to act. The timing was a clusterfuck. The lack of any character arc didn’t help the plot, which lagged on like a drunken gambler, refusing to leave the casino until he’s sold his soul to the devil for one more chip.
In between one of the scenes the lights came up, and the stage stood empty for what seemed like eternity. I think even the director was starting to think, are they coming?
The one jumpy metronome to the piece was Clary (played by Darnell Williams). A drug dealer’s girlfriend, and a sassy hot mess. Clary may have spent most of her scenes chewing on red vines, and shaking her booty, yet she has a dream. The antithesis to the other characters in Rue Royale, Clary wanted to see the world outside of New Orleans.
Rue Royal plays June 23 at 5:30 pm and June 24 at 2 pm.
by Tony Bartolone~
Virginia City is the story of a town in which everybody is looking for something. With grand songs and witty dialog, this show has plenty of potential.
The strongest metaphor at work here is discovering your voice and your place in the world. Ironically, that is what the show itself must accomplish to succeed. This musical has so much going for it, but it is not quite there. It felt a little claustrophobic, at times, on such a small stage. There is some meandering and some moments that are a little too convenient to be believable. As far as musicals go, there is always a struggle to balance story and music. And at this point, the scales are tipped toward music.
Having said that, it is easy to see what this show could be, given some reworking. Some of the songs are catchy and interesting, and the premise is tantalizing. The show is going to be referred to as “the Mark Twain play,” so why fight it? It almost felt like Samuel Clemens was a minor character. The music was alternately impressive and unnecessary. The world would love to see a more developed production of Virginia City in the future.
Virginia City plays June 24 at 3pm.
by Marcus Kaye ~
If everything you knew came crashing down around you, would you rise again? That’s the central question asked in the world premiere of Cal Barnes’s intense drama, Rise.
Brett Colberth plays Henry Donner, a young and popular pastor at a community church in Los Angeles. He’s the type of pastor with long hair and cross tattoos; the type that might bust out a guitar in the middle of a sermon to rock. His faith in God is unwavering, but his faith in himself comes into question when Alexandra, a virtual hurricane of sin played with force by Gowrie Hayden, steps into his office (an effectively claustrophobic location). They’re literally polar opposites, but they have more in common than it first appears. Their conversation starts in the abstract, but (thankfully) escalates quickly when she reveals herself to be a woman from his past. A woman with secrets. And if you suspend your disbelief that he wouldn’t recognize a woman he shared such a tumultuous history with, it becomes a fascinating tango of morals, alcoholism, lust and danger.
Direction by Aaron Lyons is well thought out but too rehearsed. It lacks some of the spontaneity one would expect with a firecracker like Alexandra.
Colberth has mastered Donner’s tranquil, pastoral tone; his serenity washing over you and wrapping you in its warm and comfortable timbre. He’s so tranquil, in fact, that it’s near condescending – which is precisely why it makes it so exhilarating to watch him snap as everything he knows comes crashing down around him.
Rise has remaining shows on June 22nd at 8:30PM, June 23rd @ 4:00PM and June 24th @ 4:00PM at Theatre Asylum.
by Tony Bartolone~
Lexi Pappas gives us an honest account of a romance against her better judgment. Unrequited adulation for the mysterious Piano Man drives our protagonist to highs and lows in her capricious youth.
An interesting question is raised about human desires somewhere in the course of this play. Why would an intelligent person follow foolish whims? Is being smart any match for having a deep, visceral desire? And furthermore, which is more important to progress as a society? Are we where we are because we’ve evolved into intelligent beings or because of our primitive desires? More than arousing these philosophical queries, Piano Man is a highly relatable story of a young woman’s internal conflict.
“Does anyone recall/the saddest love of all/the one that let’s you fall/with nothing to hold.” Lexi finds herself too young to be an adult and too adult to be a child. It is an interesting time in life between adolescence and adulthood. There is an age of uncertainty when you don’t quite feel like a grown up (most people call it their twenties). You can feel like an imposter, like a kid pretending. And perhaps more than instinctual longings or being enamored with an enigmatic musician, it was this uncertainty of age that drew Lexi to her Piano Man.
Piano Man plays June 20, 21 & 22 at 5:30pm.
~by Brian Sonia-Wallace
Less theatre and more indie circus, Button Wagon carries the circus’ delight at a small scale. The two performers, a contortionist and an ‘object illusionist’, switch off doing bits at the start before coming together in the real heart of the show to meld their talents. The contortionist slithers into cowboy boots and searches for buttons to eat and love, while the illusionist is buffeted by imaginary winds, discovers new worlds in hoops, and passes several giant needles apparently straight through the contortionist while she waits in a giant spool of thread. Every moment exhibits physical skill that has the audience gasping and wincing, and the giant buttons and persistent theme of rabbits make the proceedings more cute than creepy, with occasional transcendent moments of actual beauty.
If you mixed Tim Burton’s style with Zooey Deschanel’s quirkiness, you might approach the particular weirdness of Button Wagon. The show starts slow, with some of the ‘same old’ circus and magic tricks done without an enfolding structure to give them meaning, but as the characters start to interact and we see their relationship emerge through set pieces and even a dance number, surprise and delight creep up on the audience. The children in the theatre were on their feet by the end, and I myself was left with a childlike glee.
Button Wagon performs June 20 & 22 at 10pm and June 23 at 4pm.
[Editor's note: Here are two reviews of shows we've already covered:]
Richard Parker at Open Fist and Theatre of NOTE
by Joel Elkins~
Richard Parker is a charming and highly entertaining tale of coincidence, fate and cannibalism. Both the inspiration and back story for the play is the following strange bit of prognostication. In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe published his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, in which the surviving sailors of a severe storm are forced to kill and eat the cabin boy (a lad by the name of Richard Parker) in order to survive. Forty-six years later, a real-life ship suffers a similar fate and the crew is forced to kill a young man by the name of Richard Parker to survive.
As a modern day Richard Parker boards a ferry to attend a friend’s funeral, he is engaged in conversation by a strange man obsessed with coincidences. It turns out he is also named Richard Parker and has purposely followed the first Parker on board because he (the second Parker) considers it a foregone conclusion that the boat will go down and that some Richard Parker will be cannibalized and he simply wants to improve his chances of survival.
The script by Welsh playwright Owen Thomas contains delightful dialogue and is sprinkled with astonishing tales of real-life coincidences along with its share of Monty Python absurdism. Alastair Still and Gareth John Bale (both Welsh themselves) are absolutely brilliant as Richard I and II, as is Bale’s spot-on direction.
Richard Parker plays at Theatre of NOTE on June 19 at 8:30 pm and June 22 at 9:30 pm, and at the Open Fist on June 20 at 4:30 pm, June 21 at 5 pm.
Gentle Passage at Artworks Theatre
~by Brian Sonia-Wallace
Gentle Passage is like a staging of a gay, geriatric Chuck Palahnuik novel. It shares the Fight Club author’s joy in shredding taboos to make the audience squirm, in this case parading stories of sexual abuse and family dysfunction in such quick succession that a revelation of incest gets a laugh. The story revolves around a researcher who is tasked with collecting a dying gay man’s stories to test the efficacy of a new Alzheimer’s drug. Though she hates the job, she bonds with the patient over the horror of his stories and tries to give him the forgiveness he craves.
The stories are really the focus of this piece, but the man telling them seemed so thoroughly ‘alright’, aside from the dying and the forgetting who he was, that the researcher’s horror seemed almost uncalled for. This is the kind of play that needs a ‘based on a true story’ tagline, or the incredible perseverance of its lead in the face of all sorts of trauma comes across as unreal. The staging is functional, but effective, and both actors bring a touching humanity to their roles. I’m not sure if I should read a take-home message about homosexuality into the piece, but it’s shot through with so much Freud and depravity on one side and prudish coldness on the other that it seems to be saying we should all leave well enough alone with sex. Which would be a shame.
Gentle Passage performs June 20, 21 & 22 at 6pm, June 23 at 8pm, and June 24 at 2pm.