Friday, October 26, 2012

THE LILY'S REVENGE, ART/Oberon, closes Sunday 10/28

Company, Act Five, THE LILY'S REVENGE
I know that sometime in the future, at a party, an audition, during intermission or after a show, I'll be able to draw attention with the phrase, "Well, I saw THE LILY'S REVENGE at Oberon".
And I'm very happy I did.

With a limited three-week run and a fixed audience of 150 per performance, there weren't that many opportunities to see it, and with my Uncle Vanya performance schedule (both shows opened the same week, days apart) I only had two chances: either Tuesday October 16 or Tuesday October 23.  As the 16th was sold out when I was able to buy a ticket, I went to the A.R.T. Box Office at the Loeb Drama Center, and was able to get a $25 ticket (each performance had a limited number of tickets on sale at @ $25, while the rest of the tickets were $45; and, as it was open seating, the ticket price didn't define where one sat) for Tuesday October 23, and counted the days.
Since I first read about the New York production and followed it's reviews, I've been reading about this show, and when the ART announced it as part of the 2012/2013 season,  I wanted to know more.  Had I not committed to performing in the revival of Uncle Vanya I would have auditioned 
myself (I was invited to audition  by the A.R.T. casting coordinator, who also asked me to spread the word that this show wanted to hire many locals, union and non-union).  surfed on over to taylormac.net to see and read his own description of the event, and became immersed in the material there, including photos of the original NY and subsequent SF productions, interviews, and a piece on collaboration, that reads:
"I believe theater is community action and as a playwright I am a community organizer. LILY continues this approach to making theater. It is a five-act, five-hour play with a cast of 40. The first four acts have roughly ten performers each, the final act has all forty. Each act is directed by a different director. A sixth director creates the intermission performances (what I loosely refer to as kyogens), which also utilize the entire ensemble."
And that's basically how it went here in Cambridge at ART/Oberon in only the third production of THE LILY'S REVENGE.  But here, the cast numbered thirty-something, and one director, 
Shira Milikowsky a graduate of the A.R.T. Institute, and Artistic Director Fellow at the A.R.T., presided over the entire show: all 5 acts and the kyogen intermissions.
Written and conceived by Taylor Mac, the multi-talented performer has been involved with each production so far (there was a New Orleans production in October 2012 produced without him), and by performing as "Lily" with a new community of performers and artists, he increases the "fish out of water" (flower out of pot) feel of The Outsider, a flower amongst other flowers and metaphorical prototypes: The Bride, The Groom, The Great Longing (A Curtain), etc. By employing local actors, singers. musicians, artists and performers of all kinds, the show creates a community force that Lily faces and forges ever onward in it's quest to marry The Bride.

Margaret Ann Brady texts and Twitters to communicate during one of the Kyogen intermissions

Though publicized as "5 acts, 5 hours", the show clocked in at about 4:20 ... appropriately so for this trippy "happening" of a show that might have been conceived in the Haight/Ashbury or the Greenwich Village of the 60s. In style and substance, it pays tribute to the early 60's Off-Off Broadway Ridiculous Theatrical Company aesthetics of Charles Ludlam, the Radical Faerie movement started in the United States among gay men during the 1970s sexual and counterculture revolution, and the 80's Alphabet City/Drag/Gender Illusionist parody/homage of Charles Busch, while becoming a thing unto itself, unique not only production to production but also night to night. The "Kyogen", drawn, like the structure of the play, from Japanese Noh Drama, are so completely interactive and individual that no two audience members will have the same experience: while listening to a nonsensical "frat guy" interpretation of Susan Stewart's theses in the men's room (complete with "football-play"-like diagrams drawn with a bar of soap on the bathroom mirrors), I forfeited getting a neck and shoulder massage from a cast member, but later I stopped by the "disco dressing room" where performers, mostly in drag, danced and dished, surrounded by costume pieces and flamboyant accessories that audience members could try on, select, and wear for the remainder of the show (or until the novelty wore off). This effort to get the audience to "let it's freak flag fly" (a 60's slogan, not a show quote) worked, and the feeling in the audience was a relaxed open attitude, willing to follow where they led us. From the earliest moments, there were the elements of direct address, an "is he or isn't he a "plant" character entering from the audience (along with the entrance of an actual plant), and the use of some old and "hoary" "audience involvement" bits of borrowing someone's seat and actual audience/actor touching. I managed to avoid getting drawn in, literally, until, in the final moments, Taylor Mac lept from the stage and planted a kiss smack dab on the lips. I kissed a former Lily ... and I liked it.

Lily (Taylor Mac) and Subprime Deity Mary (Margaret Ann Brady)


John Kuntz's Poppy out on the street
(iphone photo by Karen Kosko)

The local performers in the cast make up a cross-section from both the mainstream and the fringes of Boston's theatrical landscape. A.R.T. mainstays Tommy Derrah as The Great Longing (a theatrical and domineering red velvet curtain, characterized mostly through Derrah's deft vocal work and facial expressions, highlighted by a pair of glaring eyes, until later, reduced to human size, he struts his stuff, and performs an outrageously comic striptease) and Remo Airaldi as the Master Sunflower (who is more a Mistress), actor/playwright John Kuntz as the Poppy (in ghoulish makeup suggesting the faded elegance of a Gloria Swanson),  and, in her A.R.T. debut, Margaret Ann Brady as Mary Subprime Deity (one of the Marys, a group of former bridesmaids, a cross between the Radical Faeries and the Chorus in Marat/Sade), are the Equity actors in the group, with credits across the local boards. Gene Dante, a rocker and a performer with the Gold Dust Orphans, drag divas "Rainbow Frite" and "Sabina Sydney, Matt Mauriello, who was hysterical in Roller Disco: The Musical at Oberon last summer, and Alexander Cook (also a member of Actors' Equity) from Underground Theatre's Arabian Nights  are among the familiar faces from the smaller stages, working alongside graduate students of the A.R.T. Institute.
Despite fears to the contrary, the evening did not drag on forever (pun intended). Each of the first four acts is divided by a kyogen intemission, and food and drinks are readily available at a few cash bars and a grilling station set up alongside the Zero Arrow Street building.  Act four, a silent movie projected onto two opposite walls of the Oberon space (cropped down by hanging screens into a cube which we all stood within), segued into the fifth and final act.  And when that act ended, in a moving speech by Taylor Mac that spoke of equality and the right to marry whoever one chooses, I was hoping for a cathartic celebratory dance that could involve the entire room.  It didn't happen.  Could be that, having received that aforementioned kiss, I wanted to dance from the joy in that unexpected "reality check".  (There was some dancing earlier on, during the Dream Ballet Act Three, when cast members drew individual audience members onto the performance space.)  Also, we started at 6,  and it was nearing 10:30.  But more than many other shows that have tried an audience-participation dance finale and only partially succeeded, this was an evening that needed to dance its way out.  Nevertheless, it was an evening that will continue to percolate and pop up in memories of the colorful visuals, the delicious performances, and the genuine heart and talents of Taylor Mac.
A Murderous Pope

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Up and Running: BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON/SpeakEasy, and THE CHOSEN/Lyric Stage

I've fallen behind in covering shows ... as the previous post will detail, I've been "otherwise engaged" but still dashing around town to see everything I possibly can.  Keep inviting me: I'll keep trying to get there.
So, here are a few current offerings ...


With perfect timing, SpeakEasy once again produces a knockout production of a recent New York hit that skewers the American political system by looking back, anachronistically and irreverently at the life of Andrew Jackson.  The cast (including the triumphant return of Mary Callanan, the Boston singer/actress who just toured the country with the ABBA musical MAMA MIA) sells this show with the energy and talent of a company twice their number.  As an antidote to the constant campaigning of an election year, the show gave me a cathartic opportunity to LOL, often, and often ROFL (though I thankfully did not actually get onto the floor).
The "emo" rock score is performed by a small kickass band and complimented by cast members occasionally strumming, blowing a horn, on banging on percussion props and instruments, often giving it a down home feel, while the genocide of Native Americans under Jackson's administration creates a solid and disturbing backdrop, and the history is told with the anachronistic and anarchic energy of a pulpy graphic novel.

The Lyric Stage follows up last season's highly successful dramatization of Chaim Potok's MY NAME IS ASHER LEV with an adaptation of Potok's THE CHOSEN.  The 1999 script, which, unlike ASHER LEV, Potok worked on before his death in 2002, focuses on the main relationships of the novel, with five actors seamlessly presenting the memory play: Charles Linshaw as the adult Reuvan Malter, Zach Eisenstadt as the young Reuben, Luke Murtha as his friend Danny Saunders, and Joel Kolodner as Saunders's father, a revered Rabbi, and Will McGarrahan as Reuvan's Father.  Directed by Daniel Gidron, the production lovingly creates the moods and the tensions within the relationship of the childhood friends and their fathers. 

UNCLE VANYA: Round Two

Kate Paulsen (Elena) and Kevin Fennessy (Telegin) in Apollinaire's UNCLE VANYA
For the past two months, I've been in rehearsal and performance (we're entering the third of a four week run, that's been extended to five) for the remounting of Apollinaire Theatre Company's UNCLE VANYA.  The Craig Lucas adaptation of Chekhov's play was produced last winter, running from Dec.29 for a run that was extended through January 22, and starred John Kuntz as Vanya.
That production was important to me for many reasons: for one, it was my return to acting after seventeen years (aside from a dip in the waters as one of The Miseries in the ART/MIT/Chicago Opera Theatre collaboration "DEATH AND THE POWERS: THE ROBOTS' OPERA", at the Cutler Majestic in the spring of 2011).  Following a long career in theatre as an actor and award-winning director, in 1994 I was offered a job in casting with Carolyn Pickman (CP Casting) and followed it for a run that included my own Casting company and office, which was destroyed in a fire in 2002. (Though the company folded, I continue to "dabble" with some freelance clients and in consulting with colleagues).  My last stage appearance was as the Narrator in the New Repertory Theatre's HOLIDAY MEMORIES, the holiday season show of 1994 that combined two Truman Capote stories, The Thanksgiving Visitor and A Christmas Memory.  (Coincidentally, the New Rep is producing HOLIDAY MEMORIES once again this year, at their Watertown home in the Arsenal Center for the Arts).
But the winter 2011/12 production of UNCLE VANYA came at a very difficult time for me.  My Mom, Georgia Ravanis Fennessy, died on October 25, 2011, and her funeral was on Nov.2, just 9 days before I went into rehearsal.  (The auditions for UNCLE VANYA happened in late August 2011.  I read that John Kuntz was playing Vanya and called director Danielle Fauteux Jacques to set up an audition.  Casting was completed in early September and a rehearsal schedule went out shortly after.  If I hadn't already been cast, I doubt I would have followed the funeral with an audition search).
Telegin (Kevin Fennessy) and Nanny (Ann Carpenter) at tea with the samovar
The rehearsal period and performances were just what I needed to get through a very dark time.  The Theatre, capital T, picked me, wrapped its arms around me and carried me through.  Mom was always so proud of my career in the theatre, and enjoyed saying "Kevin's an actor".  She would beam with a mile-wide smile every time she told the anecdote of my returning home from school one day in the first grade, bursting with the announcement that "the teacher said I read with expression!".  Having the world of the play to immerse myself into, and finding connections to my family in the play, were what kept me going through a period that included my birthday (1/21) and Mom's (1/22).  (As I mentioned, UNCLE VANYA ran through Jan.22, with performances on both of our birthdays.  And with our birthdays so close to each other, that end-of-January time of year became "our" time to celebrate).
It's a year later, and here I am once again performing in UNCLE VANYA, as the anniversary of Mom's passing approaches.  The sadness and grief of October 2011 has gotten easier, as the happiest of memories fill my thoughts.  I miss her now and always, but it does get easier and the joys with which she lived her life daily have become more available to me.  She truly is with me, in my heart, and available whenever I need a reminder.
During the summer, we learned that John Kuntz had been offered a role in THE LILY'S REVENGE, in direct conflict with the planned revival of UNCLE VANYA.  Initially this was taken by the company as a huge blow: how would the show go on?  But this is theatre, and we all know from song and history that "the show MUST go on" ... and that of course it could, and should. We already knew we'd be recasting the roles of The Professor and Elena, as both of the actors in that original company had chosen not to continue in the revival.  I looked at the challenge before us and made a casting suggestion: Diego Arcienegas, a respected and talented actor who could be, and indeed is, the right fit.  Diego was auditioned, along with other appropriate and exciting possibilities, and was cast.  With Diego and two additional "new" actors to the company, Jack Schultz as The Professor and Kate Paulsen as Elena (who Danielle discovered through additional auditions), the rehearsal period became more involved, but also richer than a "mere remounting" would have been.  Our talented newcomers to the cast brought new energies and interpretations, which in turn offered us the opportunity to look at moments and relationships in a different light: not better, not drastically different, but "fresher" than just dusting off the sets and costumes and brushing up our Chekhov.
Diego Arcienegas (Vanya) and Kate Paulsen (Elena) in Apollinaire's UNCLE VANYA

Come see for yourself.  UNCLE VANYA continues Wednesday through Sunday evenings (Wed., Fri., Sun. at 7:30, Fri. and Sat. at 8).  As it's a revival from just last season, most of the area's critics weighed in with reviews on the first round, resulting in nominations from the IRNE and Elliot Norton's , including a win for Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques as Outstanding Director/Fringe Theater from the 2012 Elliot Norton Awards. We did receive a review from WBUR's Critic-At-Large Ed Siegel, which you can read here.  Tickets and additional info at www.apollinairetheatre.com

Friday, September 28, 2012

Coming Monday night, October 1, The StageSource Party!!!



"StageSource provides leadership and services to advance the art of theatre in the Greater Boston region.  Our mission is to unite theatre artists, theatre companies, and related organizations in vision and goals that inspire and empower our community to realize its greatest artistic potential.

I count the start of my career as June 14, 1976, the opening of MAYDAY! , a play about the 1971 May Day demonstrations in Washington DC.  A lifetime ago, but also, almost a decade before the arrival of StageSource, in 1985.
StageSource brought about a huge change in the theatre community, bringing the emerging scene together to support each other's growth and progress.  From the Annual Audition, which serves union and nonunion actors companies and productions alike, to the many workshops, seminars, newsletters and events, StageSource is at the center of our community.
And no event was as much fun as the annual party, an opportunity to socialize and scmooze, which has been on hiatus for a few years.  

But it's back!!! Celebrate the return of the  StageSource Party, Monday Oct. 1, at Oberon.  The party is a benefit for all the various programs that StageSource provides.
From the StageSource website:
"Enjoy an evening of fun, dancing, beveraging and high school hijinks theater style while supporting the services StageSource provides for the Greater Boston theater community.  Break out your poodle skirt, dust off your K-tel albums, put on your Members Only jacket, grab your best Doc Martens and make some magic.  StageSource will transform the Oberon into your high school gymnasium for an experience far superior to your prom featuring a photo booth, balloon popping, silent auction, light snacks, and a killer sound track so nostalgic we guarantee someone will be crying in a corner by the end of the night!"

Tickets are only $25, and are available here (or save a $4 service charge and go to the ART Box Office at the Loeb) or at the door.
There will also be raffles and silent auctions so bring some money and a generous spirit.
See you there!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Fleeting Joys of August On The Fringe: R&J at Happy Medium, The Third Story at Titanic, and New Exhibition Room's ZOMBIE DOUBLE FEATURE


As summer winds down, the doors to the kingdom are left unlocked for the people to play in the palace ... or something like that.  In recent years, the spaces that are busy all season with resident companies become available, sometimes for lesser rates and mostly for limited runs, to the homeless theaters of the Boston Fringe.  Two or three week runs, some longer, have opened and are running and closing this week and next, at the BCA Plaza and Calderwood theaters, Boston Playwrights Theater, and at the Black Box at the Arsenal Center in Watertown, among others.
I've seen a few (R&J at the BCA, The Third Story in Watertown), I'm seeing one tonight  ("Zombie Double Feature", two one-act Zombie plays at BPT).

Romeo and Juliet, Happy Medium Theater, BCA Plaza Theater thru 8/25
From what one can read in all of the publicity material, Happy Medium knows that the real star of its production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is the director, Paula Plum.  And it really is a triumphant fringe production, rising far above its limitations and my expectations.
While it feels somewhat like the culmination of a master class in performing Shakespeare with one of Boston's most respected "actor/director/teacher"s, it succeeds in presenting a clear and direct "no frills" production.  The unit set, by Bryan Prywes, of three portals, the requisite balcony, an open plaza and darkened entryways, are aided by Daniel Chavez's lighting, to create a fluctuating environment for fluid scene changes.  Too often on the fringe, costume budgets and constraints make for an incomplete picture, but that's not the case here, as Jillian Clark's costumes are very much of a whole.  And though I think the physical production is nicely realized, I had some confusion as to where this production was set.  With its vaguely Middle Eastern setting, and the contrast of flowing linen and vests on the Montague side and a more tailored "European" look to the Capulets, and a black Romeo and white Juliet, it was difficult to place the production.  A woman, Kiki Samko, as the Prince and Chorus, added to the sense that this was happening during a culture clash in a world other than Shakespeare's Verona, and at another time, though it wasn't clear when.  Angie Jepson's fight choreography is fantastic, and, again, well realized, especially in the performances of Michael Underhill as Tybalt and Jesse Wood as Paris..
The performances were also clear and direct.  These mostly young actors presented intelligent and well motivated characters, without extraneous clutter.  Besides Underhill and Wood, some standouts include Joey Pelletier's very physical and often lyrical Mercutio, the comic relief and timing of Mikey DiLoreto's Benvolio, June Kfoury's Nurse, and the majestic "single Mom" of Sharon Squires as Lady Montague.

The Third Story, by Charles Busch, Titanic Theatre Company, at the Arsenal Center for the Arts Black Box Theater, Watertown, thru 8/19 only
The newest fringe theater on the scene, Titanic Theatre Company, is made up of some fine veterans of the local theater scene, presenting the local premiere of Charles Busch's The Third Story.  The script is another in a series of genre parody comedies from the author of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Sleeping Beauty, or Coma, and Psycho Beach Party (all of which I directed in their local premieres from 1993 to 1995).  But Charles is also the author of the more realistic Broadway comedy Tale of the Allergist's WIfe, which earned Tony  nominations, for Best Play ,and Best Actress for leading actress Linda Lavin.   The Third Story lies somewhere in between.
It's a comedy full of Charles' famous way with words, puns and the period vernacular of  Hollywood of the Golden Age, of hardened tarts and cigar chomping gangsters, chorus cuties and Grand Dames.  The three stories that intertwine to make the intricate plot concern a Science Fiction/Gangster screenplay being written as we watch, a redemptive fairy tale woven by a Mother for her child, and the relationship of a Mother/Son writing team, a broken partnership trying to be regained.
The Titanic company rises to the challenge presenting one of the funniest shows currently running, and ONLY running through this Sunday.
The proverbial "Worth The Price of Admission" Medal goes to Rick Park's entrances, as Queenie, the Charles Busch "Leading Lady" who he manages to put his own stamp on, and as that character's clone, Queenie 2. Not a small person to begin with, Rick brings new meaning to "larger than life" in his Grande characterization of this Grande Dame.  (His "sotto voce" asides are hysterically appropriate and wholly his own).  I don't think I've ever seen Alisha Jansky look quite as tall, long and lithe as here in her period pencil line skirts and lab coats. (Alisha famously created the role of Chicklet's best friend, Berdine the ultimate 60's nerd, in my '93 production of Psycho Beach Party and it's '95 revival).  Shelley Brown maintains a commanding presence as the Mother of the writing team and as a character in her screenplay, while Brett Milanowski is having almost too much fun with his creation of the sci-fi experiment gone wrong, though I can't imagine it being played any other way than gleefully. Erin Eva Butcher camps up the golddigging gun moll, all giltter and intent, while nicely underplaying the innocence of the heroine of the fairy tale.  Jordan Sobel does a great about face in his two roles, as the screenplay's gangster and the screenwriting son.  With the addition of eyeglasses, he changes pitch and tone, body language and characters as easily as changing out of his coat.
Congratulations to director Adam Zahler and the Titanic Theatre Company, and best wishes for a long and bright future.  While the production may not completely solve the transitions of the plays difficult tones and themes, the characters and camp carry the show for a two-hour ride.

Zombie Double Feature : Terror at BPT (written and directed by Dawn M. Simmons) and Midnight at the Last Night Cabaret (written and directed by A. Nora Long)
The Zombie Apocalypse continues, this weekend and next, as two original one-act Zombie plays are presented by New Exhibition Room at the Boston Playwrights' Theater.  The waiting areas begin to fill with couples, threesomes and small groups of theatregoers, as well as solos like me, while the front theater remains open and dark.  It doesn't appear very inviting.  And rather than enter, we all wait, slightly uneasy but just as ready for some chills and laughs as the Zombie genre intersects with Boston's fringe theatre.
And then it's 8:00 and the calmly patient audience is disrupted by characters darting through the lobby, and just as suddenly we're led into the back theater, where The Vicar will hold his revival meeting.
Part theme-event, part parody, the first half of the night, Terror at BPT, had us as captives in the theater where the Zombie Apocalypse has arrived.  
In the second play, Midnight at the Last Night Cabaret, we are again playing the role of audience members at an impromptu cabaret in the BPT as the Zombie Apocalypse explodes outside the theater.  
The lines between horror and camp, music and comedy blur as the "rules" of Zombie Culture are set up and broken.  Some wonderful moments of tension and suspense are played out, while we await the inevitable gore and gross-outs.  And the inevitable Michael Jackson flash mob dance number gets turned on it's severed head.
Both shows are basically theatrical excuses to allow the New Exhibitionists permission to get their Zombie on.  The plays conform to the Basic Rules of Zombie-Dom: the undead seek fresh human meat and blood, and once bitten by a zombie, one dies and returns as one of the flesh seekers.
Terrence Haddad seems limitless in his ability to disjoint his joints and struggle with his Inner Zombie.  Both the physical contortions he gets into and the verbal attempts he lets out combine to hysterical effect.   And his final moments in Terror at the BPT rival Boris Karloff's monster for unexpected pathos.  Greer Rooney performs another hysterical sketch with a "puppet", a prop that she wrestles with, giving it a life of it's own.  In fact, Zombie puppets are also a part of this Apocalypse!  
Every one, Hannah Husband, Lyndsay Allyn Cox, Bryan Daley, Terrance Haddad, Greer Rooney, Bob Mussett (and his ukelele), Melissa DeJesus, and Omar Robinson, brings a gleeful joy to playing with prosthetic body parts and innards, and the directors, A. Nora Long and Dawn M. Simmons, keep the pace flowing, though I felt that some bits meandered while getting to the point.  It would be nice, for example, to have the musicians accompany more of the Cabaret songs, which might move them along.  The addition of live musicians in such a rock-and-roll format was a great idea, and the pieces set to their soundtrack, "inadvertant" cabaret acts during which a zombie, attempting to perform a simple task, "becomes" the show, were nonverbal highlights, and I would have liked to see them more fully integrated into the Cabaret.  (A sign at the theater announced that the musicians for last night's show were Brendan and TJ.  I don't know how often they perform, or who the alternating musicians are or what their schedules are).  
But even as is, the 2 hour 15 minute show, with intermission, moves along leaving little time to question and plenty of time to laugh.



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Commonwealth Shakespeare: Call To Action!







It's the show that gave Cole Porter's KISS ME KATE one of the greatest lyrical double-entendres in "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" ("If she says your behavior is heinous, Kick her right in the 'Coriolanus' ").
Steve Maler's Commonwealth Shakespeare Company presents CORIOLANUS, opening July 25 and running through August 12, 2012: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8pm; Sundays 7pm.  
And, as posted on their website and in a recent email, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company relies on the help of volunteers to continue the beloved tradition of bringing the bard's words to the masses on the Boston Common.

"Each night we need more than 15 volunteers to help in ushering, handing out playbills, and supporting souvenirs and concession sales. Besides being outdoors in the oldest city park in the United States and seeing a world-class production of Shakespeare for FREE, volunteering for CSC is a way to support one of Boston's leading arts institutions with your most priceless gift: your time! We offer great incentives for your help including VIP seating and discounts on merchandise."
If you would like to sign up, CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Midsummer Openings: Indoor and Outdoor



This week, two of Boston's Fringe Theaters are opening shows.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead/Han Muerto
Apollinaire in the Park, Mary O'Malley Park, Chelsea
From 2002 until 2010, Chelsea's Apollinaire Theatre Company had been taking on  the huge task of producing free outdoor summer theater performances, in both English and Spanish on alternating nights.  Some of the past productions have included Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, Chekhov's The Seagull, Ionesco's Rhinoceros, Rostand's Cyrano De Bergerac, and Cocteau's The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower & Other Absurdities of Love.  But last year, cutbacks in funding caused the company to cancel what had become a summertime staple in Chelsea, serving a bilingual community with thought provoking and challenging plays in environmental stagings in the park, for free.  Thanks to the work of a fundraising committee bolstered by a successful online "kickstarter" campaign, the program is back this summer with Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (in Spanish, "Rosencrantz Y Guildenstern Han Muerto").  Performances run thru Saturday, July 28, with shows in English on Wed. Thurs. and Sat. nights, and in Spanish on Fri. and Sun.  All performances begin at 7:30, and audience members are encouraged to bring beach chairs, blankets, and coolers and picnic in the park.  Come early to get a good spot ... but travel lightly: as it's an environmental staging, the audience will pick up and move to another location for each new setting.
Free.

True Believers
Vagabond Theatre Group
At the Factory Theater at The Piano Factory, 791 Tremont St @Mass Ave.
Vagabond Theatre Group presents True Believers by local playwright Thom Dunn, it's third world premiere production since it was founded in the fall of 2009 by Artistic Director James Peter Solis.
True Believers "tells the story of aspiring comic book artists, psychotic fanboys, cybernetically enhanced humans and girls who dress like Princess Leia as their lives intertwine during a week at a comic book convention.  With character descriptions that include phrases like "Recently divorced. She took his entire Star Wars collection in the settlement. Yes, that includes his Han Solo in Carbonite coffee table. Not that he's bitter or anything." and "Seriously didn't mean to make Wolverine gay," this play is sure to entertain, engage and bring out your inner nerd!"  
Opening Thursday 7/12 at 7:30, thereafter performances are Wed. Thurs. at 7:30,  Fri. & Sat. at 8:00, and Sat. and Sun. July 15 at 2:00, through Sat. 7/22. 
$18/$15 students and seniors.  Tickets at Brown Paper Tickets

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Judy At The Palace of St. George: Kathy St George IS Judy Garland

Dear Miss Garland at the Stoneham Theatre, (781) 279-2200,  till July 22 (for tickets, click here).
Kathy St. George in DEAR MISS GARLAND



By the time Kathy St George, implores us, as Judy Garland, to forget our troubles and, "come on! Get happy!", I did a quick reality check.  Troubles, I got plenty, but forget them? I already did.
DEAR MISS GARLAND is the new and improved version of a show Kathy St George and Scott Edmiston created as Kathy's love letter to Judy Garland.
The first act covers the history of Kathy and Judy, growing up as a fan.  Like many of us, Kathy first got to know Judy Garland from the annual network television broadcast (when the only networks were ABC, CBS, NBC and, later, PBS) of The Wizard of Oz.  (The rest of you had videotapes and discs to view anytime you wanted to: its how my niece, at 4, was able to recite the segment "The house began to pitch ...").  She followed Judy's career by seeing all of her films, and as a performer she was drawn to her material. Together with director Scott Edmiston, St. George has crafted a show that has a very intimate first act (which could just as easily play in a cabaret room), which deals personally with Kathy's connections to Judy Garland, with songs and stories, sometimes giving a glimpse of Judy's character in those anecdotes and songs.  But mostly it's Kathy, relating to us her love and passion for Judy and her material. As much as it is the cliche of all cliches, there's a segment that closes Act One that alone is "worth the price of admission", and I laughed throughout her whimsical, virtuosic performance.  It's a segment that everyone relates to, and ties the first act together well.
Act Two is mostly a recreation of some of the song performances captured on the recording JUDY AT CARNEGIE HALL.  St George's music director/pianist/accompanist Jim Rice, who was the sole musician for Act One, is joined by others to create a 7 piece orchestra to provide a bigger sound for the second act.  Kathy,in the unmistakable iconic wardrobe pieces that help her define her characterization, hits one song after another out of the park, with an easy, dead on impersonation of Garland's energy, emotion and drive.  She doesn't use any artificial makeup enhancements to look like Judy.  She plays the gestures, and finds the emotion in those gestures.    This is the chance to see a singer/actress at the top of her form in material she was made for.   I've only seen Tracy Bennett (the British actress playing Judy Garland on Broadway in "End of the Rainbow") in a segment on the 2012 Tony Awards broadcast, but based on the little I saw, I think Kathy's Judy could go up against hers and come out on top.  
As an encore, Kathy comes out wrapped in an oversized faux black mink, and says "What becomes a legend most?", which is the line from a series of ads for a fur line called Blackglama, featuring gorgeous icons, (Sophia Loren, Judy Garland, Diana Ross, Bette Davis, Ann Margret, Joan Rivers, Janet Jackson, and even Tommy Tune, etc.), dressed in Blackglama mink.
In this show, it's Kathy who becomes a legend most!

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Visit to the Plaza Theaters at the BCA, 6/29 & 30: Polaroid Stories and A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Plaza Theaters at the BCA
Polaroid Stories, thru 7/14
A Midsummer Night's Dream "a cappella" Opera, closed.

First a little history: when I returned to Boston after my training at York University in Toronto, in 1976, the small theater scene was extremely limited.  There were fewer theater companies and spaces, and mostly a non-equity landscape for actors.  I worked initially at the Boston Arts Group Theater, a Boylston Street walk-up that housed a small company, Boston Arts Group, and was used as a rental space.  That show was MAYDAY, a play about the May Day demonstrations in Washington DC in 1971.  Written by Michael Wikes and directed by Andy Golov, two BU students, with a cast that included BU acting students as well as other young adult performers, it was my first play outside of college, and the only time a show I was in a show that received a review by Elliot Norton (it was a slow summer ...).  I then auditioned for, was cast in,  and began rehearsals, all in one day, two plays with Maxine Klein and her Little Flags Theater company: FANSHEN by David Hare, adapted from the sweeping chronicle by William Hinton of the Chinese revolution as seen from the small village of Long Bow, and TANIA, Maxine's original play with music about Tamara Bunke, a woman revolutionary who worked in the Bolivian jungles with Che Guevara.  At the time, Little Flags worked out of a space at the BCA that eventually became Hammersley's Bistro.  Whenever I pass the restaurant, I'm reminded of singing songs of revolution and performing plays about communism in third world countries.  The National Theater was steadily decaying at the other end of the block, where eventually the Calderwood Pavilion took it's place.  In the center, next to the Cyclorama, was a space called the Ehrlich, now the Plaza Theater.  The Plaza Black Box wouldn't be created for at least another decade, and within a few years the Ehrlich became The New Ehrlich, with it's own company, as well as being a rental space.  I performed in a few shows, and in 1985 directed The Star Spangled Revue of 1942, a 40's "book revue", which featured among its cast of 8, Bobbie Steinbach as a Vera Lynn-inspired "Lila Darby", Christopher Tarjan (currently the resident director of Shear Madness) as "radio personality Allen Ray", and Margaret Ann Brady as a kind of cross between Ethel Merman and Kate Smith (her rendition of a 40s war song, Marching Through Berin, practically shook the roof off the old place).  
All these years later I took in two shows last weekend in the Plaza Theater and the Plaza Black Box.

POLAROID STORIES, by Naomi Iizuka, is being produced by three of Boston's current Fringe companies: Hearts and Daggers ProductionsBoston Actors Theater and Happy Medium Theater Company, and provides the opportunity to get to know a bit about all three.  Co-directed by  Artistic Directors Joey C. Pelletier of Hearts and Daggers and Happy Medium's Elise Weiner Wulff, it has a cast of young actors representing all three companies as well as additional performers from the Boston theater scene.  The young ensemble portrays "street kids living on the edge in a desolate, urban landscape".  Written in 1997, the scenes and monologues could be happening at various times in recent history, and the production, while presented in a contemporary timeframe, wasn't specific enough to ground it in today.  I appreciated the opportunity to be exposed to the work of this cast, consisting mainly of actors I hadn't yet seen perform.  The production is sparse, and therefore relies on the actors to create the realities of these characters, who are given names and situations from Greek myths.  I was intently focused and their work kept me so, though I wasn't as engaged as another writer, Alan Chase, whose rave for the show can be found here.  At only $20 ($15 with a student ID), the show is very affordable and definitely worth checking out, to see the work of the next wave of Boston's actors, directors, and theater artists..
The room is not very well cooled, so be prepared on warmer nights: a few floor fans were brought in at intermission that made things much more comfortable.  On the Friday night I was there, we had just experienced a few very hot days, so don't worry that it's sweltering: just dress lightly, have a cold drink with you. and make use of the program to quietly fan yourself.

On Saturday night, I saw OperaHub's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the East Coast Premiere of a new opera, described by the company thus:
"GLEE meets La Scala in this innovative, genre-defying take on Shakespeare's beloved tale of love--and magic--in the woods. Melding opera, musical theater, and a cappella styles, this is A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM for the twenty-first century".  
Composer Michael Ching's opera uses Shakespeare's text, but in place of an orchestra, there was what they're calling a "voicestra", a chorus of singers who, joined occasionally by a keyboard player and a vocal percussionist, provided the accompaniment.  This was a pretty straightforward "Dream", in mostly modern dress, which included a few children/fairies, and had the audience tossing beachballs onto the set when we first went into the woods and encountered Oberon and Titania.  I appreciated the concept and production more than the material.  The Globe's Jeffrey Gantz reviewed the piece, and his review can be seen here.
The Plaza Theater, unlike the Black Box, was quite nicely air-conditioned.

street kids living on the edge Polaroid Stories & A Midsummer Night's dream

Friday, June 29, 2012

LOCAL CASTINGS: Huntington Theatre Company's OUR TOWN


Huntington's OUR TOWN Continues to audition ...

One of the most highly anticipated shows of the 2012-13 Theatre Season for audiences and actors alike, is the Huntington Theatre Company's presentation on OUR TOWN, in the production directed by Chicago's David Cromer.  What started as a local Chicago production and went on to become the longest running revival ever of Thornton Wilder's play in New York, OUR TOWN will be presented at the Roberts Studio Theater at the Calderwood Pavillion this fall/winter.    Led by director David Cromer reprising his role as the Stage Manager, the cast will include original cast members of the Chicago and New York productions, and will be filled out by local actors in major and supporting roles, for which the Huntington has been auditioning since February of this year. With rehearsals beginning Nov. 13, and the production running from Dec. 7 through January 27, these roles are among the longest running to be cast in Boston this season, with a total of over 11 weeks of work from first rehearsal to closing.
While some local actors await the call for a callback audition with Mr. Cromer, the Huntington has announced another open casting call.  Submissions from actors who have not previously been submitted or auditioned should be made ASAP by email to aintern@huntingtontheatre.bu.edu. 




Here's the full audition notice: 


OUR TOWN Call for Huntington Theatre Company The Huntington Theatre Company is seeking actors for the roles of Farmer, Sam Craig, Si Crowell, Joe Crowell Jr., Simon Stimson, Wally Webb, Irma and the Citizens in the production of OUR TOWN by Thornton Wilder, directed by David Cromer. 
**If you have already audition for OUR TOWN, you need not submit to this call.** 
Date and time of the audition still TBD, but will be before July 7th. Slots will be given in 5-minute increments and sides from the script will be emailed out. A reader will be provided for you. 
The Huntington is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Non- Equity performers are encouraged to submit. 
Performers may schedule an appointment by contacting: Alex Lonati, aintern@huntingtontheatre.bu.edu Please send your headshot and resume via email.
The Huntington Theatre will be using an LORT D contract for this production. 
Dates of the Production: First Rehearsal: November 13, 2012 First Preview: December 7, 2012 Opening: December 12, 2012 Closing: January 27, 2013 
CHARACTER BREAKDOWN: 
SIMON STIMSON male, old enough to have seen a peck of trouble. Must play piano. Simon is the organist and choir director of the Congregational Church. He is the town scandal with a commonly known but never spoken of drinking problem. He can only articulate his sadness and rage and isolation after his suicide. 
WALLY WEBB male, 10 or so. A bizarre little boy. 
JOE CROWELL, JR. male, mid teens. A very bright young man who will graduate first in his class, be granted a scholarship to MIT but die in France in WW I. He is resistant to change 
SI CROWELL male, mid teens. Si delivers the Grover’s Corners Sentinel in 1904, after his older brother retires. Si, like all the Crowell boys, is resistant to change. 
SAM CRAIG male 20s. A Grover’s Corners boy who left town to go out west. Out West it seems, is Buffalo, New York. 
FARMER male 50s to 70s. A older, the town’s deceased farmer 
IRMA , 30s to 50s a woman among the dead. 
CITIZENS, any age. Various types. People among the dead in Act 3. Non-Equity only

Monday, June 25, 2012

From Russia With Attitude


Kevin Fennessy and Erin Eva Butcher:
Chekhov on the Catwalk
The Theatre Communications Group Conference 2012, held for the first time in Boston last week at the Park Plaza, threw a Late Night Party, THE BOSTON BASH, on Friday June 22  at the Boston Center for the Arts' Cyclorama.  The party committee, including Jennifer Johnson of the Charlestown Working Theater and Ari Barbanell of ART/Oberon,  coordinated a fashion show of actors in costume from shows throughout the region: from the Huntington and ART to the Portland Stage Company, Watertown's New Rep, and Boston's Company One, among others.   Among the group, there were  Elizabethan costumes,  a paniered Marie Antoinette gown, "Chad Deity" of Company One's upcoming play, "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity", in gold lame boxing trunks, a Donkey Show Disco Boy, and a couple of Brides (including Jenna Lea Scott in her Korean Bride Costume form the Lyric Stage's AVENUE Q, designed by David Cabral, accompanied by Erica Spyres "wearing" her Kate Monster puppet).  We were like a bizarre Halloween costume parade.   I walked the runway in my costume as Telegin, AKA "Waffles", from the Apollinaire Theatre Company's production of the Craig Lucas adaptation of UNCLE VANYA, by Anton Chekhov, accompanied by Erin Eva Butcher, our Sonya, in costumes designed and executed by Toni Bratton Elliot.  
We were a big hit.  We strode out together, got to the end of our runway and busted a few dance moves.  Then I slid out of my woolen jacket and cap, dragged it behind on a runway sashay to the hoots and hollers from the theater crowd.  Erin paraded back, and we stomped off together.  Motivated by the heat of the night and in the heat of the moment I made my few minutes on the catwalk count.

And don't think I'd miss the opportunity to remind you, again, that the award-winning production of UNCLE VANYA is returning by popular demand, at the Chelsea Theater Works, from October 10 thru Nov. 4, Wed. thru Sun. evenings. The original production's cast members Erin Eva Butcher (Sonia), Ron Lacey (Astrov, nominated for an Elliot Norton Award), Ann Marie Shea (Maria), Ann Carpenter (Nanny), Mike Handelman (Workman/Musician), and I (Telegin, AKA "Waffles") are joined by newcomers Diego Arcienegas (Vanya), Gordon Jack Schultz (Professor), and Kate Paulsen (Elena).  Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques, Apollinaire Artistic Director and recipient of the 2012 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Directing/Fringe for this production.  Last winter we sold out every show, and many were shut out.  With an audience limited to 30 members per performance, many shows are selling out already.  Don't miss it this time.
For more information and tickets, visit https://www.apollinairetheatrecompany.com/tickets/tickets.html .

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Emerging America Festival @ Oberon

As one of the three presenting organizations (the other two being The Huntington Theatre Company and the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston), the American Repertory Theater is presenting shows at Oberon, the company's second stage, a " a destination for theater and nightlife on the fringe of Harvard Square".
For the Festival, Oberon will play host to three productions and a party.  The following comes from the Emerging America Festival website ...


PIRATES OF PENZANCE

  • By Gilbert and Sullivan; Directed by Sean Graney; Performed by The Hypocrites
  • THURSDAY 6/21 at 8PM, FRIDAY 6/22 at 10PM, SATURDAY 6/23 at 6PM and SUNDAY 6/24 at 4PM
  • Run time: 80 min
  • Recommended for all ages
  • TICKETS: $20


Bringing the sold-out production from their native Chicago, The Hypocrites treat this hilarious musical in an entirely thrilling new way. Treat yourself to an eighty-minute exotic excursion featuring bathing beauties, philosophizing pirates, and grown men in remarkably short shorts! Warning: If you want boring, stay away; this experience will cause immense joy and the compulsion to spontaneously sing along. Come ashore with the “Very Model of A Modern Major General,” the Pirate King, and a banjo-picking Mabel. The show features beach balls, sunshine (the artificial kind), and tons of fun music.This show is a promenade production, and while some seating is available on a first come first served basis, audience will be asked to flow with the production and spend time standing.


  • FRIDAY 6/22 and SATURDAY 6/23 at 8PM
  • Run time: 1 hour
  • Ages 18+
  • TICKETS: $20
Celebrated performer Steve Cuiffo has immersed himself in the work of Lenny Bruce, delivering sublime, hyperreal, verbatim resurrections of the great American thinker’s monologues. The New York Times has declared, “Lenny Bruce is brought back from the dead in the form of Mr. Cuiffo,” who will perform a compilation of Bruce “bits” on still-hot topics, including organized religion, race, illegal and prescription drugs, sexual mores, obscenity, and the Constitution. It’s fifty years later, but Bruce’s often prophetic, freedom-loving skewering of American culture is as dazzling, hilarious and insightful as ever.

  • By Stickball Productions; Based on the novel by George V. Higgins; Adapted for the stage by Bill Doncaster; Directed by Maria Silvaggi
  • SATURDAY 6/23 at 3PM and SUNDAY 6/24 at 6PM
  • Run time: 1 hour 40 min
  • Ages 18+
  • TICKETS: $15 - $25
  • The godfather of badass Boston crime stories comes to life in this stage adaptation of George V. Higgins’ famous novel The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Set in the winter of ’69, Eddie Coyle is a bottom of the barrel hood trying to stay alive and out of jail among his “friends” – bank robbers, student radicals, bartenders, hit men, cops and informants. The Friends of Eddie Coyle has been called the best crime novel ever written; Higgins' dialogue comes to life on stage with this encore performance at OBERON, following its sold-out run.

  • SUNDAY 6/24 at 8:30PM
  • FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

The last show may be over but the party is just beginning! Come celebrate with us at the Emerging America Festival at the closing night party. This is your chance to mingle with this years artists as you share stories, dance, laugh, and raise a glass together while the music plays on the dance floor at OBERON. This is one final event not to be missed.


Extra! Extra! or " I Oughta Be In Pictures"

Summer is the season for filmmaking in Boston.  Well, it's the busiest season for Hollywood features shooting in the Bay State.   Ever since the state enacted it's policy of tax incentives for the motion picture industry, it's not unusual for a movie to shoot entirely on location throughout the state.
In the pre-tax incentive years, a major featured tended to shoot here for a few weeks to a month or so, capturing it's exterior shots, the locations that absolutely HAD to be shot on location: The Swan Boats ... Faneuil Hall Marketplace ... Harvard and MIT ... historical sites and iconic images of New England, rowing along the Charles, fall foliage in full bloom, etc.  But with the incentive of saving money by shooting here, producers have been following the savings.
THis weekend on Saturday there's an open casting call for a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, the as yet "Untitled Female Buddy Cop Comedy" (see info regarding the casting call below).
Here's a listing and some advice on what's shooting this summer and how best to get yourself "in the movies".

GROWN UPS 2
A sequel to the hugely successful Adam Sandler movie GROWN UPS, again starring Adam Sandler, with Kevin James, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, David Spade and others from the original, as well as additonal names such as Andy Samberg and Taylor Lautner.  Shooting on the North Shore in the Marblehead/Swampscott area, Grown Ups 2 had it's open casting call last month and has been shooting for the past month, continuing through August.  Extras Casting is by Kristan Berona of Sande Alessi Casting/LA, one of Hollywood's busiest casting companies for feature films and television.  To be considered, you can connect with them on the Sande Alessi Casting/Boston Facebook page, but fair warning: Do NOT respond, comment, request work, etc., on Facebook: it's a means of receiving info regarding last minute or upcoming needs for the movie, and instructions on how to submit for those jobs will be clearly detailed in the notices.  They specifically request that potential background performers do NOT comment on their postings, as they don't have the time to go through Facebook notes while busily doing the day-to-day casting.  If you did not go to their open casting call, they ask the following:
If you did not make it to our open call, READ THE FOLLOWING VERY CAREFULLY. We will not be responding to posts about this. 
Click the link below and it will automatically download our registration card. Print it out, fill it out completely and write neatly please. If cards are not filled out completely, we will not be able to cast you. Once your card is filled out, please staple a current, color photo of yourself to it. Mail it (do not email, do not stop by, etc) to: Extras Casting, 45 Congress Street, Suite 4120, Salem, MA 01970


LABOR DAY
This is an adaptation of the novel, LABOR DAY, by Joyce Maynard.  The film stars Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, and is being directed by Jason Reitman.  Set in New Hampshire, the movie has been shooting around Massachusetts, initially in Western MA, in the Amherst area, though they've recently moved into the Natick area and surrounding communities.   The casting company for this movie's extras is Boston Casting,  located in Allston.   But hold on: before you jump on the green line, the best way to get listed is right here online.  Go to www.bostoncasting.com, and click on the Talent Application link on the upper lefthand side of the home page.  As this movie includes scenes that take place in the 60's and the 80's, they are very interested in knowing if you have period-correct automobiles for possible use in the movie.
Enter your information and current photo(s) that REALLY look like you (not enhanced or touched up studio shots) and make sure you also add yourself to the Boston Casting mailing list on their home page.  Occasionally, last minute rush call castings will go out by email, and as always, the "early bird gets the worm".



THE UNTITLED BUDDY COP COMEDY
This is the feature in prep for shooting  in July and August.  Starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, it's the film that is having it's open casting call for both union (members of the newly merged SAG-AFTRA actors union) and nonunion extras this weekend.  The Extras Casting company for this movie is Billy Dowd Casting.  Billy Dowd has had a long successful casting career, working on major features over the past three decades.  He's been associated in the past with CP Casting, but he's his own independent casting director, with credits on movies and tv projects associated with some of the biggest directors and names in the industry.
Here's the casting notice and the basic information:

Billy Dowd Casting
is holding a

NON-UNION EXTRAS CASTING CALL 
[ADULTS 18+ ONLY] 
for an 
"Untitled Buddy Cop Comedy" 
starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy
The film is shooting in Boston this Summer



Saturday, June 23rd

10:00 AM - 4:00 PM 

The Boston Teachers Union Hall 
Carson Place 
180 Mount Vernon Street 
Dorchester, MA 02125 
CHECK YOUR GPS -- There is more than one Mount Vernon Strreet in Boston 
The BTU is located in the rear of the Bayside Expo, off of Day Boulevard.


Looking for the following types:  [ALL ADULTS 18+]


- Ex-Convicts/ Inmates 
- Ladies of The Night (Hookers) 
- Cops/FBI/Detectives 
- Prison Guards 
- Drug Dealers/ Junkies 
- Energetic & Attractive Party People/ Night Club Goers ( Ages 21 - 40 yrs old) 

Please bring a recent snap shot/photo (and a pen!) with you to the open call.
If you have a HEADSHOT & RESUME bring (at least!) TWO.
PLEASE NO phone calls to Billy Dowd Casting or the Boston Teacher's Hall.
Thank You!




THE WAY, WAY BACK

Written by the Academy Award winning team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants), this also marks their directorial debut.  Starring Steve Carrell and Toni Collette, who worked so well together in Little Miss Sunshine, it's a coming-of-age story based loosely on Jim Rash's own life with his Stepfather.
The Extras Casting is also being done by Billy Dowd Casting, (see above), and attendees to his casting call for the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy movie will also be considered for this film.
This movie, however, needs families and children.  If you missed the open call a few weeks ago, and you can't attend this Saturday (which is the best way of being included in Billy's files for work on either movie) you can send a current picture and all of your contact information to:
contact@billydowdcasting.com.

As always, no phone calls!


Break a leg, and have a great shooting summer!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

EMERGING AMERICA FESTIVAL: The Hotel Nepenthe

Photo Credit: Jeff Adelberg
Tumbling forth from the fertile imagination of actor/playwright John Kuntz come the characters and situations of The Hotel Nepenthe, dovetailing, careening, doubling back and ultimately dancing with the spontaneity of kids at a party. And the $25 ticket price makes for an affordable excursion into a theatrical wonderland. Presented by the Emerging America Festival on the stage of the Wimberley, outfitted to contain the mysterious set and an 85 member audience. 
The "random events" that make up a life are never easily understood, followed, or sensibly arranged, and neither are the characters and events of The Hotel Nepenthe.  While following along might frustrate the linear minded theater-goer, this show clues us in at the start that we're in for a different kind of ride.  In the opening moments, Kuntz and company parody the warnings and advice of an airline stewardess,  asking the audience to "keep the tray table in an upright and locked position", "silence and turn off all electronic devices",  and the women gesture to the lavatories while John Kuntz himself warns us that "you better have gone before because there's no intermission".  And we're off on a flight of fancy through the corridors, rooms, taxis roads and bus rides of The Hotel Nepenthe.  Like most of John's plays, there is an overload of pop culture references, 60's and 70s television theme songs, recurring character names that may or may not signal connections, and an epilogue that anyone who knew John in the 80s and 90s ... well, any time at any party, will recognize as a thematic dance poem, a story in movement that exemplifies the joy and glee with which he entertains us and himself.
Photo Credit: David Gammons
The set is a mysterious landscape that functions as those hotel rooms and well-traveled roads along the way.  Live video gives us alternative views of both events in the foreground and on the periphery of a given scene, and the lighting creates the moods, tensions and mysteries we encounter.  Above, a faux-dropped ceiling allows for fluorescent lighting and the feel of a less-than-luxurious Hotel (despite the leopard bathrobes), and also for a rainbow (watch for it at the evening's end).  The quartet of actors is the perfect ensemble, who performed the play in it's premiere, produced by the Actors Shakespeare Ensemble in February/March 2011: Kuntz, Daniel Berger-Jones, Georgia Lyman and Marianna Basham, directed by David Gammons.  That production earned both the 2011 Elliot Norton and 2012 IRNE Awards for Outstanding New Play,  as well as the 2011 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Ensemble, and Elliot Norton Award nominations for David Gammons for Outstanding Director/Mid-Size Theater, and Marianna Basham for Outstanding Actress, Mid-Size Theater.
Presented by the Emerging America Festival, Thursday June 21 at 7:30 and 10:30, Friday June 22 at 8:00, Saturday June 23 at 2:00 and 8:00, and Sunday June 24 at 2:00.  Individual tickets ($25)and Festival Passes ($50-$85)  available at www.emergingamericafestival.com/tickets.html.