Wednesday, April 29, 2009


‘TREMONT’ probes into Cleveland’s past at Actors’ Summit

The city is on a search for its identity. In the past year at least three theatres have probed into areas of the municipality. Jewish Community Center’s Arts Program examined ‘CLEVELAND HEIGHTS.’ Dobama probed into the area’s historical immigration with ‘THE CLEVELAND PLAYS.’ And, on May 15 they open ‘THE CLEVELAND PLAYS: II’ about the effect of the present mortgage crisis on nine Clevelanders. Not to be outdone, Actors’ Summit premiered ‘TREMONT,’ a play by locals Robert Thomas Noll and Pamela Noll. It examines the results of white flight of first generation Europeans from the Tremont area, near the steel mill area on the shores of the Cuyahoga River.

The play is set in the Silver Bush Bar, a small neighborhood watering hole with a long time group of regulars, a clientele that has quickly abandoned the area and moved on to Parma. We meet Eva, a daughter who spent her life taking care of her now deceased parents, at the expense of her own happiness. She is working and living in the bar out of fear of living in the family home which has been broken into and ransacked. The bar is owned by Zolton, the son of the bar’s founder, who is an older man who professes love for the younger Eva. An elderly couple, the Popovich’s, are regular customers, but soon may be going southwest with the rest of the central Europeans seeking a safe place. There’s Tree who has lost his job but gains something else. The final character is Eva’s brother, Andre who has reappeared after a long absence with a hidden agenda.

Unfortunately, the play isn’t well written. The first act basically goes no place, filled with “old” people mockery. The second act at least has a somewhat meaningful conflict between the siblings. The conversations are often forced, the jokes aren’t that funny, and the overall effect is a somewhat pleasant, but quickly forgettable script.

The production has the air of community theatre performance, rather than a professional theater presentation. Whether this is the shallow script or the lack of acting depth is up for conjecture.

Sally Groth displays that she is properly tortured by Eva’s past. As the Popovichs, Jean and Glenn Colerider adequately walk the line between mental presence and early senility. Bob Keefe, with accent coming and going, never becomes quite believable as the bartender. Geoffrey Darling (Tree) is given the impossible task of trying to create a real person out of an unrealistically written character. He gets the laughs, but looks foolish in the process. Only Peter Voinovich comes off as real. Again, the script gives him a character that is much closer to believable, and he takes the role and develops it well.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘TREMONT’ is a lightweight script that gets an acceptable production at Actors’ Summit. It’s one of those shows that you may enjoy while watching, but quickly forget that you saw it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

[title of show]

‘[title of show],’ another BW-Playhouse Square collaboration

Last year, Baldwin Wallace College and Playhouse Square combined to give us ‘BROOKLYN THE MUSICAL.’ The show, which ran just three productions in the 14th Street Theatre was spectacular. It’s a shame that it wasn’t scheduled for a longer run, as it would have turned out to be a show with a strong cult following resulting in a long run.

This year, Victoria Bussert (BW) and Gina Vernacci (PHSquare) again conceived of giving college students an opportunity to showcase their talents in a professional theatre. This type of production also provides audiences with a chance to gain an appreciation of the performance skills of a group from one of the most respected musical theatre programs in the country.

‘[title of show’],’ which received a Drama League nomination for its off-Broadway production, centers on two struggling guys writing a musical which they want to get to Broadway, which centers on two struggling guys writing a musical they want to get to Broadway. No, that’s not a typo, it’s really what it’s all about…you watch the show which they’ve written as it is being performed as they write it. It’s quite a clever idea.

The production, which will probably be appreciated most by those who participate in or who love musical theatre, is not a great script, but it is entertaining. Some of the in-jokes and name references to pop divas will go right over the heads of the less theatre-savvy members of the audience. And, potential audiences must be warned, as a sign on the entrance door indicates, “This production contains mature language and flash bulbs.” Yes, the “f-bombs” go off on a regular basis.

The inventive book was conceived by Hunter Bell and the lyrics, which are often extremely clever, were written by Jeff Bowen. Bell and Bowen starred in the original production, and that probably added to the easily interactive banter. Those who attempt to portray them have no such personal attachment, which somewhat takes away from the immediate presence style of the script.

I attended one of the pre-14th Street productions of a show which was performed in the Bill Allman Theatre on the BW campus. That showing, under the direction of Victoria Bussert, was quite entertaining. It is difficult to ascertain how a “real” audience will respond, as the BW assemblage was peppered with theatre students who reacted as much to the persona of their friends on stage as to the characters they were portraying.

As is, J. R. Bruno, who plays the ADD, geeky, Bucky Beaver-looking Hunter is both believable and delightful. His huge dark eyes flashing, hair flopping over his sweat streaked forehead, Bruno is manically boyish and hyper-adorable. His comedic abilities outstrip his singing talents, but, it’s his delightfulness that counts the most, and he succeeds in fulfilling that requirement. In discussing if someone he is interested in is gay or straight, he convulsed the audience with a perfect presentation of the line, “Spaghetti is straight until it gets hot and sweaty.”

Dustin Jesberger portrayed Jeff the night I saw the show. This character is the more serious of the duo. Though Jesberger is not as successful as Bruno in developing a full character, he delivers his lines, many of which are written for him to be the “straight” man in the comedy act, with assurance. He has a pleasant singing voice.

Maggie Roach has the correct attitude and mannerisms, but doesn’t have the vocal chops to sing the “big belter” role.

Like Bruno, Emma Ruck, who portrays the ever wise-cracking Susan, has a natural talent for comedy. As with the rest of this cast, her vocal abilities seemed limited. This lack of vocal ability is surprising for Bussert’s students.

Ryan Garrett, who portrays Larry, the entire orchestra, thanks to his extraordinary talents as a keyboardist, plays well and renders his few lines with a fine shy flair.

Capsule judgement: ‘[cast of show]’ is a generally delightful production of a script that is adequately written and which has some good music. Don’t go expecting to be blown away like the audiences were with ‘BROOKLYN, THE MUSICAL,’ last year’s BW presentation at the 14th Street Theatre, but you will have a good time.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Inlet Dance 4/09

Inlet ‘REFLECTIONS’ impressive at DanceWorks ’09

It’s a shame that Inlet Dance, which is one company performing at Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks ’09 program, only does several public performances a year. Artistic Director Bill Wade’s dancers are well trained, his choreography is focused, and the performances are always filled with innovative concepts.

In ‘REFLECTIONS,’ their newest offering, they repeated past successes and added several world premieres. One is from a guest director, the other is based on an artist-in-residence experience they had in the Easter Islands. The Easter Islands of the giant carvings of myth and wonder.

The program opened with “DOPPELGANGER,’ which uses two male dancers to visually display the creation of uniqueness. The two bodies work as one, much in the style of Pilobolus Dance, which uses strong elements of physical interaction between the bodies of the performers, exaggerations or contortions of the physiques of the dancers, and verges on gymnastics. Inlet is fortunate to have two of the best male dancers in the area. Joshua Brown, thin and agile, floats as he dances. He is perfectly countered by Justin Stentz, whose sculpted body, is a mass of muscle power. The duo is compelling as they act as one, perfectly balancing, gyrating and twisting into fascinating positions.

‘LEGACY,’ in its premiere, was choreographed by Randall Finn, the founder of Ad Deum Dance Company of Houston. Consisting of five movements, which center on how much people have given of self, and how it affects our lives, varying staging devices were effectively used. Chairs, which were sat on, slid under and balanced upon, solo pieces, duets, and group segments, comprised the number. Especially appealing was “Till Time Do Us Part,” beautifully performed by Mikaela Clark with Justin Stentz and “Forget Me Not,” which was superbly interpreted by Mikaela Clark.

‘THERE IS A FOUNTAIN,’ a Wade piece, was nicely executed by Rebecca Inman and Andrew Leatherman.

‘MEMORIATE,’ honored the aged. Though it evoked emotional response, it was less compelling as a dance piece, than the other selections.

The cornerstone offering, the world premiere of ‘TE PITO O TE HENUA, PHASE ONE,’ was dedicated to the company’s visit to Rapoa Nui (Easter Island). Following many of the traditions of the culture, Wade is fashioning a suite of dances. The first movements explore the idea of a healthy interdependent community while citing images of how people came to the island and displayed the strong sense of community of the natives. The five segments covered the traveling on waves to the island, the traditional female and then the male trio of dancers, and a lava tubes dance in which the performers formed mountains and valleys which were climbed and traversed. The piece was creatively choreographed, but needs work. The waves segment was a little too long. The complicated movements throughout take perfect timing, and the dancers weren’t quite in control of all the movements to blend into a unified unit.

Capsule judgement: In ‘REFLECTIONS,’ the Bill Wade’s inspired company again proved their abilities to move and engage an audience. Inlet Dance is one of the area’s premiere dance companies. Because they spend enormous amounts of time in outreach to area schools and institutions, they don’t do as many public performances as might be desired.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dance Preview, April/May 2009

VerbBallets, Alvin Ailey and CPT’s Dance Works ’09

There’s going to be a lot of dancing goin’ on in Cleveland in the next month. Verb Ballets, Alvin Alley American Dance Theatre and Cleveland Public Theatre’s ‘DANCE WORKS ‘09’ will be populating various area stages.

VERB BALLETS Gets In The Groove!

Verb Ballets, Cleveland’s National Repertory Dance Company, returns to Play House’s FusionFest for a two-night stand that highlights the company’s season of collaborations, called ‘IN THE GROOVE!’

New works from nationally respected choreographers Dianne McIntyre, Michael Medcalf, and Ulysses Dove will be showcased.

Performances take place May 1 and 2, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Play House.

Reserved seats are available by calling 216-795-7000 or through


A notable event is taking place in Cleveland mid-May. The ‘ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER 50TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR’ comes to Playhouse Square May 15-17, 2009 at the State Theatre.

The company is presented by PlayhouseSquare in partnership with DANCECleveland.

The program, featuring excerpts of over a dozen ballets spanning each decade of Alvin Ailey’s career, includes beloved works as well as rare gems not seen in three decades. Beginning with Blues Suite, the dance that launched the company in 1958, to Opus McShann, his final piece thirty years later, and closing with the classic Revelations, this retrospective demonstrates the range and resonance of one man’s genius.

For tickets, which range in price from $10 to $70, call 216-241-6000 or go on-line to

DanceWorks 09 at Cleveland Public Theatre

April 23 - April 26
Inlet Dance Theatre
Acclaimed both locally and internationally, Inlet Dance Theatre's accessible and powerful signature choreography speaks about the human condition. Repertory for the engagement features world premieres including a work based on the company's recent global travels, along with a remounting of the heartfelt Memoriate.

April 30 - May 3
Antaeus Dance
Directed and choreographed by Joan Meggitt, the company presents Molt, which explores the transformation that results from stripping away undesirable habits and patterns to reveal the essence of the individual.

May 7 - May 10
Ohio Dance Theatre
Choreographed by Denise Gula, Ohio Dance Theatre premieres Silent Witness, a multimedia work that reveals the darkness of the human soul, by honoring victims of domestic violence. Also presented is Spindrift, a contemporary ballet performed to the music of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

May 14 - May 17
Double-Edge Dance
XspanD is a series of solos and duets formed around the spans of time, memory and relationships. Choreographed by Kora Radella, Julie Brodie and Balinda Craig-Quijada, the pieces are danced to new music composed by Ross Feller and performed by violinist Dorothy Martirano and bassist Armand Beaudion.

May 21 - May 24
Open Window Dance Company
Choreography by Tammy Metz Starr, Coloring Pages, uses IWDC’s unique approach to painting the stage with dances drawn from Asian movement forms.

For tickets to all DanceWorks 09 performances, call 216-631-2727, x501

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Odd Couple

‘THE ODD COUPLE’ pleasant at Fairmount Center, but…

In these tight financial times, when arts agencies are cutting expenses, or even going out of business, its surprising that there is a new theatre in town. Enter FPAC. The Professional Theatre Company of the Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory is located in the refurbished former Methodist Church on the corner of SOM Center and Highland Roads in Mayfield Village. Other segments of the organization are the Summer Program and the year-round Youth and Teen Theatre.

Operating under the motto, “all ages for all stages,” the organization’s Executive Director is Tom Fulton, while Fred Sternfeld serves as Artistic Director of FPAC.

The theatre chose to perform Neil Simon’s ‘THE ODD COUPLE’ as its inaugural professional production.

Simon, often referred to as “Doc” for his ability to come into troubled professional shows which are having script troubles and doctor the writing, has also been dubbed the “Crown Prince of Broadway Comedy.” Simon, for many years, was the most reliable hit maker in Broadway history, as well as one of the most performed playwrights in the world. The author of over 20 plays, several musicals and 30 movies, he has received such accolades as Tony, Golden Globe, ands Drama Desk awards, as well as a Pulitzer Prize. He hasn’t opened a new show since 2003.

Many think that ‘THE ODD COUPLE’ made Simon a cultural phenomenon. After its long run on Broadway, the play was turned into a successful film, a popular television series, a female edition, an animated series, and later another TV series, “THE NEW ODD COUPLE.’
The story line centers on Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Felix, who has just separated from his wife, arrives at the apartment of his divorced friend, Oscar, who takes him in. Within a short time, the neat-freak, hypochondriac, obsessive compulsive Felix has driven the slovenly Oscar to distraction. But after a seemingly disastrous double date with a pair of neighboring sisters, Felix announces he will move in with the girls. His stay, however, has not been without its effect, for, when Oscar resumes his poker game, he warns his fellow players not to flick ashes on the floor.

The play is directed by Fred Sternfeld, the master of staging large scale musicals. Unfortunately, he seems more timid with comedies. This production is slowly paced, and misses many of the laugh line cues. The results is an acceptable, but not outstanding production.

The show’s highlight is Brian Zoldessy, a multiple Times Theatre Tribute Award Winner, as the hyper-hysterical Felix. As he has done so many times in the past, Zoldessy controls the stage whenever he appears. He is a skinny, fidgety, ball of hysteria. It is worth seeing the show, just to experience Zoldessy in action.

On the other hand, Scoot Hankins lacks the rough edge, the “go for the throat” instinct to go to the extremes that the role of Oscar demands to create the yin and yang of Oscar and Felix.

Carla Petroski and Amy Pawlukiewicz are delightful as the English Pigeon sisters. The rest of the cast, Noah Budin, Bobby Thomas, Kirk Brown and Bob Abelman all develop their characters acceptably.

Why FPAC chose ‘THE ODD COUPLE’ as its opener is a major question. Is doing a play that has been performed by almost every community theatre the image the producers want to convey? Are they going to do old, worn out, dated scripts and expect to attract audiences? Let’s hope that their play choices improve.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Though Brian Zoldessy shines in FPAC’s ‘THE ODD COUPLE,’ the over-all effect is an adequate production that would have been helped by more dynamic pacing, better keying of the laugh lines and a stronger co-male lead.

Monday, April 13, 2009

2009-2010 Broadway Series

2009-2010 Broadway Series announced!

At a gala preview, Gina Vernaci, Vice President of Theatricals at Playhouse Square Center, announced the Key Bank’s Broadway series for 2009-2100. The lineup is:

October 13-25, 2009
Based on the classic Mel Brooks movie, the winner of the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award, the musical includes show-stopping numbers including "Transylvania Mania," "He Vas My Boyfriend" and “Puttin' on the Ritz." Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman.

January 12-24, 2010
This hit musical is the recipient of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards, a Grammy and thousands of standing ovations. A tale of sin, corruption and all that jazz.

February 9-21, 2010
‘In The Heights,’ winner of four 2008 Tony Awards including best musical, is a new rock musical about chasing your dreams and finding your true home.

March 2-14, 2010
Taking audiences back to 1980 California, this new musical follows the beautiful Kira, who travels to earth to inspire a struggling young artist named Sonny, as she helps the aspiring painter to find his voice.

April 13-25, 2010
Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for best play, ‘August: Osage County’ is a new play which tells the story of the Westons, a large extended clan that comes together at their rural Oklahoma homestead when the alcoholic patriarch disappears. Forced to confront unspoken truths, the family must also contend with matriarch Violet (played by Academy Award-winner Estelle Parsons), a pill-popping, deeply unsettled woman at the center of this storm.

May 11-23, 2010
Take a trip to a simpler time of poodle skirts, drive-ins, and T-birds. “Bad boy” Danny and “the girl next door” Sandy D fall in love all over again to the tune of such favorite songs as: “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin’” and “We Go Together,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One That I Want.”
Nominated for 2008 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, is rockin’ across the country in this new production direct from Broadway starring American Idol winner Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel.

June 15 – July 3, 2010
The movie is a legendary entertainment phenomenon.Now it showcases on stage. Step inside the story of Baby and Johnny, two fiercely independent young spirits from different backgrounds, who come together in what will be the most challenging summer of their lives. It is told by a cast of 39 and features 35 hit songs, including “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”

Subscriptions to the KeyBank Broadway Series at PlayhouseSquare are now available by calling 216-830-7221 or online at The seven-show KeyBank Broadway Series subscription package ranges from $85 to $480 per seat.

The Seagull

‘THE SEAGULL” gets okay production at GLTF

In its initial production, Anton Chekhov’s ‘THE SEAGULL,’ which is now in repertoire production with ‘THE COMEDY OF ERRORS’ at Great Lakes Theatre Festival, was a dismal failure. Late nineteenth century Russian audiences were simply not ready to accept a work that seemed to violate almost all the traditional dramatic conventions of escapist and romantic theatre that they were used to seeing.

At that time, the theatre was basically attended by the upper classes. Chekov’s plays portrayed their lack of civility, leading lives with little purpose, and predicted a fall of this class. This was not what the upper classes wanted to hear. Some believe that, in fact, Chekov helped ferment some of the ideas that led to the Russian Revolution.

Chekov was not alone in his desire to change the romantic nature of the theatre of that age. He, Henrik Ibsen of Norway and August Strindberg of Sweden are recognized as writers of the modern theatre movement, which centered on Realism, Naturalism and Expressionism. Their plays were about real situations that affected real people.

Chekov, a noted short story writer and doctor, penned four major plays: ‘THE SEAGULL,’ ‘UNCLE VANYA,’ ‘THREE SISTERS’ and ‘THE CHERRY ORCHARD.’ They helped in earning recognition and an international reputation for not only Chekov, but for Constantine Stanislavski, the Father of Method Acting, who staged successful productions of Chekov’s plays at the Moscow Art Theatre.

The story begins with young Konstantin who is desperately trying to find a place for himself in the world. At this point he perceives himself to be a playwright. His life is turned upside down when his mother, a famous actress, returns to their summer home with her new lover, who is a successful writer. Their mere presence seems to wreak havoc and unsettle not only Konstantin, but the entire house hold. Tensions arise, suspicions grow and patience is tested. Many of the characters are caught in destructive relationships that evoke both pathos and humor. They are caught in the destructive nature of false dreams and living lives of fantasy.

The GLTF production, as directed by Drew Barr, who also did the adaptation, is perfectly acceptable, but lacks strong emotional presence. Having seen the play numerous times, I know this is not the way other productions affected me.

The pacing is slow and the internal climaxes not clearly highlighted. Even the unnerving action at the end of the play is not strong and clear. The man sitting next to me leaned over just before the curtain call and asked, ”What just happened? Is the play over?” This is not a good audience reaction.

Kevin Crouch as Konstantin, the tortured son, properly oozes angst. Dudley Swetland nicely develops the role of Pyotr, his bachelor uncle. Gisela Chipe has some nice moments as the woman who rejects Konstantin, and Ian Gould is properly pathetic as a school teacher. Laura Perotta acceptably develops Irina, as the overly dramatic drama queen and Andrew May nicely populates the role of the writer. The rest of cast is also acceptable.

The technical aspects, like the production, are sufficiently well done.

‘CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: GLTF’S ‘THE SEAGULL,’ is an acceptable, but not compelling evening of theatre. The production needed more texturing, greater variance in pacing, and more dynamic character development to truly make a high interest statement.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nina Domingue is brilliant in’ no CHILD….’at CPT

If you are smart you will go to the phone right now and call 216-631-2727, or go on-line to, and order tickets to see ‘no CHILD…,’ now in performance at Cleveland Public Theatre. You’d better hurry because as the accolades spread, the 50-seat performance space will quickly sell out.

There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe Nina Domingue’s one-woman performance in this well written and conceived play.

‘no CHILD…” was penned by New York City native Nilaja Sun, who has been a teaching artist with New York’s Epic Theatre Company’s “Journeys” program, which brings theatre to city schools through intensive sessions of rehearsal and performance of a single play. It follows Sun as she attempts to mount a production of ‘OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD’ at Malcolm X High School in the Bronx. The script examines prisoners in Australia. Yes, that seems like a strange topic choice for these kids. On the surface, it is, but …. (I’m not going to go any further with this and ruin it for all of you who are going to attend.)

Domingues plays not only Nilaja Sun, but all fifteen characters in the story – the students and fellow teachers, parents and janitors, and even the security guard who mans the metal detector at the school’s gates.

She develops all the roles with absolute clarity. Each character has such a unique gesture pattern, inflection and vocal sound that there is never any doubt who is speaking. This is a “must be seen to be believed” performance.

We, through the presentation, laugh, tear up and get outraged as the play captures the essence of what it is like to be in the public school system today. In this case, the public schools of the Bronx, which parallels the inner city schools in Cleveland and all other major cities that have been the victims of white flight. An exodus that leaves the falling apart buildings and over-worked teachers with student bodies of ill-prepared African American and Hispanics. Kids who are expected to pass the No School Left Behind proficiency tests, but aren’t capable due to poor home environments and inept schools.

The Ohio premiere production is well-directed by Lisa Ortenzio, who is no stranger to the topic. She directs and trains young professional actors and develops programming the school outreach programs. Her background includes being the Education Director of Cleveland Youth Theatre. She has taught at Westlake High School, Willoughby South and Magnificat High School.

Capsule judgement: Domingue so consumes the various roles that it is almost impossible to believe that only one, not fifteen performers appear on stage. BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO! Go see this show!!

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Mineola Twins

‘THE MINEOLA TWINS’ opens convergence continuum season

Paula Vogel, the author of ‘THE MINEOLA TWINS, which is now in production at convergence continuum, has been a productive playwright since the 1970s. She is the kind of writer whose works fit perfectly into the convergence play selection criteria of choosing scripts that challenge the audience. W

Although no particular theme or topic dominates her work, she often examines controversial issues such as sexual abuse, AIDS and prostitution. Vogel says, "My writing isn't actually guided by issues. ... I only write about things that directly impact my life."

Following her smashing success and Pulitzer Prize for ‘HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE,’ Vogel followed up with ‘THE MINEOLA TWINS,’ a feminist condemnation of both the right and the left, which was staged in New York, with super-star Swoozie Kurtz. The play received mixed reviews, and lasted only 3 months.

Identical twins Myra and Myrna are children of the 50s. Myrna, she of extremely large breasts, is the Republican conservative one, while flat-chested Myra is a poster child for the rabble-rousing liberal. In six scenes and four dream sequences set in 1955, 1968, and 1990, the two mortal enemies battle one another and their opposing beliefs, tearing down each other and their loved ones, in a battle to the death.

The convergence production, under the directorship of Clyde Simon, generally works well. Unfortunately, on the night I saw the play there were line stumbles, slow pacing, long set changes. On the other hand, the laughs were plentiful and the over-the-top story clearly developed.

Lucy Bredeson-Smith plays both twins. This is a difficult task in the small 50-seat theatre that makes every movement obvious. On a traditional proscenium stage the changes of clothing and sets could have been hidden, but not in this space. She nicely separates the characters as they age.

Geoffrey Hoffman is excellent in the early scenes, but becomes unfocused as the play rolls on. Bret Holden is fine in the young boy roles. Pandora Robertson’s choreographed set changes are clever and her development of Sarah, the lesbian lover of Myra, is well developed.

Whoever designed and/or selected the wigs did the cast a major disservice. The wigs used to aid in doubling and tripling of characters kept falling off or going askew, which unfortunately, made serious scenes humorous.

Capsule Judgement: ‘THE MINEOLA TWINS’ fits well into convergence’s production philosophy that expands the imagination and extends the conventional boundaries of language, structure, space, and performance that challenges the conventional notions of what theatre is.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

THE Lady With All the Answers

Get some good advice from Ann Landers at CPH; Fusion Fest preview

While sitting in the audience on opening night of ‘THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS,’ the personal story of Eppie Lederer, known to many as Ann Landers, my mind flashed back to when I was a youngster and on Thursday afternoons my maternal grandmother would sit my cousins and I down and read us Bintl Briv, an advice column published in The Jewish Forward newspaper. Tears would flow from her eyes as the counsel was given regarding problems of people, real people in turmoil. They had turned to whom many perceived to be their only source of wise advice.

Ann Landers (Eppie Friedman Lederer) and her twin sister (Dear Abby/Pauline [Popo] Friedman) fulfilled that same role. They were THE two mid-to-late 20th century newspaper advice givers to millions of Americans who found the duo to be a font of information and knowledge.

As competing columnists, the two sisters had a discordant relationship. They publicly reconciled in 1964, but hostility between them persisted. Though they gave advice on how to their lives to millions of readers, they never quite learned how to deal with their own sibling rivalry.

The original "Ann Landers" was Ruth Crowley, a Chicago nurse who wrote the syndicated column from 1942 until her death in 1955. Lederer took over on October 16, 1955 and continued writing until her death. She chose not to have a different writer continue the column.

Lederer sometimes expressed unpopular opinions. She favored legalization of prostitution, wrote in support of equal rights for homosexuals, though she described homosexuality as "unnatural." She spoke out for the rights of women, especially telling those ladies who were being abused by their husbands, to “dump them.”

In her column of July 1, 1975, Lederer wrote, "The sad, incredible fact is, that after 36 years of marriage, Julius and I are being divorced." She received 30,000 sympathetic letters in response.
That divorce is the hub around which ‘THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS’ pivots.

Written by David Rambo in a breezy “let me talk to you” style, the format lets Mimi Kennedy, who plays Eppie, speak directly to the audience. She does so with assurance and ease, and makes a natural presentation that is filled with some light humor, a little pathos, and is gently provocative. Director Seth Gordon let Kennedy do her thing, and she does it extremely well.

Kennedy, who is best known for playing Abby, Dharma’s hippie mom, on the ABC sitcom ‘DHARMA AND GREG,’ is an anti-war activist who emceed Dennis Kucinich’s announcement in his run for the presidency last year.

Tom Burch’s set is elegant, as befits a woman of wealth and good taste, with an keen eye to architectural design and furnishings. Charlotte Yemen’s clothing choices are appropriate.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: ‘THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS’ is a pleasant and informative script which gets a goold production at CPH. It’s a pleasure to watch Mimi Kennedy, in her Ann Landers helmet-like bouffant hair-do, transform herself into Eppie Lederer.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


‘SPAMALOT’ gets a 10 at The Palace

On the way out of the Palace Theatre, where we had just seen ‘SPAMALOT,’ my 13 year-old grandson, who has picked up the nickname, “the kid reviewer,” was smiling and animatedly stated, “That was a perfect 10. It’s the best show. Well, at least the best show I’ve seen so far!”

He had been laughing hysterically as Richard Chamberlain and the dynamic cast of ‘MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT,’ the musical ripped off from the motion picture ‘MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL,’ had delighted a near sold-out audience. An audience, many of whom were back for more of the same, having seen the first touring production when it was here several years ago.

Monty Python (sometimes known as The Pythons), is a group of six comedians who created “Monty Python's Flying Circus,” a British television comedy sketch show that first aired in 1969. The Python phenomenon, impertinent mockery of anything and everything, spawned stage shows, films, albums, books and a stage musical.

The musical is a highly irreverent parody of the Arthurian Legend, which includes parodies of the Broadway theatre. The book and lyrics were written by Eric Idle, a member of the Monty Python team, who collaborated with John Du Prez on the music. The original 2005 Broadway production, directed by Mike Nichols, won three Tony Awards.

At the very start of the show you quickly learn what you are in for. Before the curtain rises, a recording tells the audience to "let your cell phones and pagers ring willy-nilly, but you should be aware that there are heavily armed knights on stage that may drag you on stage and impale you." Then the first scene starts which we’ve been told by the narrator, is going to be a tale of mediaeval England. What’s on stage? A village with gaily dressed Finns singing and dancing to the "Fisch Schlapping Song." The narrator returns, irritated, and tells the frolickers that he was talking about England, not Finland and to get off stage. Later we see the hand and feet of God, experience a flying figure on a rocket-propelled broom, a man killing rabbit, and a male princess who falls in love with one of Arthur’s brave knights. And, so the idiocy unravels.

Richard Chamberlain, has been seen in such TV series as “Shogun,” “The Thornbirds,” and “Wallenberg,” and is known to many as the original Dr. Kildare. He has a nice singing voice, still is handsome, and populates the role of King Arthur with the right bewildered and pompous air. The cast is universally delightful and Merle Dandridge, she of beautiful face, gorgeous body and outstanding vocal abilities, makes for an entrancing Lady of the Lake. Yes, she is a character in a different tale, but who cares.

The score is delightful, highlighted by the hysterical, “I Am Not Dead Yet,” “The Song That Goes Like This,” “Find Your Grail,” “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway, “ and “His Name is Lancelot.”

The setting was full-blast Broadway level and the entire production was well staged, costumed and had all the necessary special effects.

I was wondering how the “younguns” would react to the sometimes sophisticated words and ideas. I need not have worried. As Alex and his friend Alex, who was also in attendance, stomped their way through the lobby and out onto Euclid Avenue, singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” repeating many lines, and doing some of the slapstick movements, I was assured that, in spite of his mother’s warning that he “wouldn’t get most of it,” Alex had just seen what he conceived to be a perfect theatre “10!”

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The touring production of ‘SPAMALOT’ is a total joy. If you’ve never seen this clever musical, you should. If you have, you should make a return visit, as it won’t get much better than experiencing Richard Chamberlain and this great professional company in a full-fledged staging!