Thursday, August 27, 2009
‘PIPPIN’ reigns at Cain Park!
‘PIPPIN,’ the musical with words and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, that is now on stage at Cain Park, according to musical theatre scholar Scott Miller, "is a largely under-appreciated musical with a great deal more substance to it than many people realize.” He goes on to say, “the show has a reputation for being merely cute and harmlessly naughty; but if done the way director Bob Fosse envisioned it, the show is surreal and disturbing."
I thoroughly agree with Miller. ‘PIPPIN’ is one of my most liked scripts and contains my favorite Broadway song, “Corner of the Sky.”
I go to see productions of the show with fear. Happily, joyously, there is little to fear about the Cain Park production. The show proves, as the opening number states, that “There is Magic to Do.”
Take the intimate Alma Theatre stage, and place upon it Martin Céspedes’s brilliant choreography, the charming and talented Cory Mach (Pippin), add Nancy Maier’s finely honed musical direction, sprinkle in a generally talented cast, and top it off with the deft direction of Victoria Bussert. The results is a must see production.
The show, which was originally conceived by Schwartz when he was a student at Carnegie Mellon, was written while he was also working on ‘GODSPELL.’ (How’s that for a duo of shows from an unknown college student.)
‘PIPPIN’ is the story of Prince Pippin's quest to find personal significance. The Leading Player narrates the story. Pippin wanders through frustration, wars, politics, and love before he comes to a realization. His awareness is reached when the Leading Player offers him the perfect emotional and life satisfying high. (You don’t think I’m going to tell you what it is, do you?)
The show opened on October 23, 1972 in New York City with a cast that included Ben Vereen, Jonathan Rubenstein, Irene Ryan, Jill Clayburgh, and the then unknown member of the chorus, Ann Reinking. It was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse.
Having seen that production, I can tell you, that Fosse’s building the show around the leading player, rather than Pippin, took the show off-message. The leading player’s magic is less the subject, than Pippin’s quest.
Bussert works her own magic by placing Pippin front and center. She even goes so far as eliminating the magic tricks commonly included in the staging and using the leading player as an audience guide, rather than as Pippin’s controller. Bussert has also used the alternate ending for the script. Her choice, wisely, plays up Pippin’s search and the wish for future awareness. (What is the “new” ending? You’ll have to go and see it for yourself!)
Céspedes is the area’s most creative choreographer. He performs his magic once again on the Alma Stage. He is blessed with a fine set of dancers, many of whom have been trained in Baldwin Wallace’s nationally recognized musical theatre program.
The cast, headed by the multi-talented Corey Mach, who has quickly established himself as a big time talent, was born to play Pippin. He inhabits the role. Blue eyes twinkling and filling with frustration and tears, he hits all the right notes. Jessica Cope (Leading Player) has a great singing voice and stage charisma, but often shouts her way through songs. The theatre is small. She is miked. Why all the excessive, ear splitting volume? Old pro, Maryann Nagel, delights with her sprightly version of ‘Simple Joys.” (I do wish, however, that the oft-used device of putting the words on a screen so the audience has them available when they are invited to sing along, had been used. I felt a little ridiculous singing out alone!) Devon Yates makes for a lovely Catherine and Joey Stefanko, a very talented “kid actor,” is character-right as her son Theo.
Some of the casting seemed off. Chris McCarrell, as Lewis, Pippin’s half brother, simply doesn’t have the physicality or personality to fit the role. Jay Ellis did a nice job as a member of the band of players, but wasn’t powerful enough as Charles. I also missed the real duck. The puppet didn’t do it me. But, with all the positives, these seem like nit-picking concerns.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: As the score states, because of the “Simple Joys” of the production, which is “Right on Track,” and “Extraordinary,” there is “Glory” at Cain Park. Go see ‘PIPPIN.’ I repeat, GO SEE ‘PIPPIN!’
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Joffrey Ballet, Cleveland Orchestra and Blossom….a wonderful blend!
Combine the world class Joffrey Ballet, with the world renowned Cleveland Orchestra, and place them in the lush Blossom Center on a crisp August evening. The results? A very special experience.
Blossom Music Center has hosted such ballet luminaries as Nureyev, Baryshnikov, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and the Vienna State Opera Ballet. But that was in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Most recently, the Blossom stage has been void of dance. Now, thanks to DANCECleveland, the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival and the University of Akron, for two performances, the stage was alight with marvelous dancing, the orchestra pit filled with the Cleveland Orchestra, and the large audience treated to the best of the best.
The program consisted of five selections of various moods and lengths. The opening number, ‘KETTENTANZ,’ was a chain dance set to the music of Johann Strauss Sr. and Johann Mayer. Combining classical movement with waltzes, gallops and polkas, the company was sprightly in showcasing various dancers in the nine pieces. The highlights were “Kettenbrück Waltz” performed by Jonathan Dummar and Victoria Jaiani, “Eisele und Beisele Sprüng,’ highlighted by the dancing of the delightful and adorable Anastacia Holden, “Schnofler Tanz,” with excellent toe work by Christine Rocas, and “Chachucha Galop” featuring fine parallel dancing by April Daly and Victoria Jaiani. In all segments, the dancers were proficient, movements perfectly timed to the musical alterations, and performer synchronizations well coordinated. Time flowed by during the thirty-two minute charming and challenging piece.
Alexander Calder developed an art movement centering on Moving Objects Behaving In Linear Equiposie, known to many as mobiles (using the first letter of his apt description). Choreographer Tomm Ruud used the Calder image to create his piece, ‘MOBILE.’ Interrupted by constant applause and sighs of “ohs” and “ahs,” Caitlin Meighan, Tiani Shuai and Abigail Simon awed the audience with their strength and fluidity. It was a study in body control and skill. Jack Hehler’s lighting added to the effect by casting shadow movements onto the back and side walls of the stage, creating a constant moving mobile of bodies and shadows. This was a show highlight!
‘CLOVEN KINGDOM,’ as choreographed by Paul Taylor, pictured man as a civilized social animal who also has the natural instincts of a wild beast. Danced to a baroque score, contrasted with contemporary percussive music, the dual level dance actions paralleled the dual musical sounds. Civilized and primitive, the dancers walked and stalked, and were elegant and animalistic. Though overly long, the point-counter point of the movements was effective in developing the conceiver’s intent. The male dancers were extremely effective in this selection.
Choreographed by Gerald Arpino to the music of Gustav Mahler, ‘ROUND OF ANGELS’ was lovely and soothing. The image of two central figures (Victoria Jaini and Thomas Nicholas) surrounded by five men representing broken-winged angels, created a strong depth of feeling. Only twelve minutes in length, the emotional sound of the music, coupled with the heartfelt movement of the dancers, made this a very special piece of dance telling the story of the depth of loss.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘CAROUSEL’ is one of the great pieces of musical theatre. Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon decided to develop a balladic piece as a tribute to Rodgers. Using the “Carousel Waltz” music from the play, combining it with other music from the show, mainly “If I Loved You” and “The Soliloquy,” Wheeldon tried to recreate the entire storyline in an abbreviated time. Though the visual effects were excellent, especially the recreation of a moving carousel, using the bodies of the dancers and some poles, the overall effect was somewhat lacking. Unless you could insert the necessary “rest of the story,” the heartbreak of the tale was not present. Part of the problem, was Fabrice Calmels unemotional Billy. He did not give the needed tortured feelings that drive Billy to his reactions to falling in love and making life changing decisions. April Daly was lovely as Julie.
Assistant conductor Tito Munoz and the Cleveland Orchestra moved through the music with precision and the needed variances, allowing the dancers to create the needed illusions. It was a fine melding of two art forms into a cohesive whole.
Capsule judgement: What a wonderful night! We can only hope that the forces that brought the Joffrey and the Cleveland Orchestra together will take swift action to make dance a regular part of future Blossom seasons.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Fall is coming and the theatre season looks exciting!
In spite of the downturn in the economy, there’s a lot of local theatre that’s going to take place in the Great Cleveland area this fall. Here are some of the offerings:
Tickets: In person at the Box Office: Daily, 11-6, by phone--216-241-6000 or toll-free at 1- 866-546-1353, on line--http://www.playhousesquare.org. Smart Seats offers $10 tickets to a broad variety of performing arts engagements at PlayhouseSquare. Smart seats are available for MAMMA MIA! JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. Go to: http://www.playhousesquare.org/Events/smartseats.aspx.
Dixie’s Tupperware Party
September 30-October 18
14th Street Theatre
Join Dixie as she travels the country throwing good ol’ fashioned Tupperware Parties filled with outrageous tales, free giveaways, audience participation and the most fabulous assortment of Tupperware ever sold on a theatre stage.
A musical comedy version of the classic Mel Brooks movie about the Frankenstein legend follows a young doctor as he creates a monster.
Abba’s songs propel this tale of love, laughter and friendship. A mother. A daughter. Three possible husbands. What more could you ask for?
November 18-December 13
The winner of 20 major awards, it tells the story of what happened before Dorothy dropped into Oz. There were two witches…one born green, the other beautiful and ambitious and…
2340 Lee Road Cleveland Heights
Ten More Minutes From Cleveland
By Eric Coble
September 25-October 18
If you think you know Cleveland, think again. Experience the eternal Browns tailgaiting party, watch students at CWRU falling in love using only their laptops, and find out how tall your grass can grow in Shaker Heights before you are arrested.
Gutenberg! The Musical!
By Scott Brown and Anthony King
Two aspiring playwrights, a piano and a musical about Johann Gutenberg, the printing press inventor.
The Cleveland Play House
8500 Euclid Avenue
Beethoven, As I Knew Him
September 15-October 4
By Hershey Felder
Mr. Felder now brings the enthralling music and captivating life of Beethoven to the stage.
The American Songbook Sing-Along
October 6-October 11
By Hershey Felder
Hershey Felder brings you into the salon of America’s greatest composers of the past 100 years: Berlin, Kern, the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Bernstein, Sondheim, and more.
Inherit the Wind
October 23-November 15
by Jerome Lawrence & Robert Edwin Lee
Eighty years after the “Scopes Monkey Trial,” this classic courtroom drama about evolution, creationism, and an American society struggling to balance science and scripture.
A Christmas Story
November 27-December 20
By Phil Grecian
Based on the Cleveland based movie, this classic holiday comedy is a funny and sweet tale of growing up in the 1940s. A theatre experience for the whole family! FINAL YEAR!
86 Owen Brown Street, Hudson
Are We There Yet?
By James Hindman, Ray Roderick, & Cheryl Stern; Music by John Glaudini
October 1 – 18
A musical revue about family.
By Eric Coble
November 5 – 22 (Changed)
A comedy about love in the Age of Twitter.
Guys on Ice
Book & Lyrics by Fred Alley
Music by James Kaplan
December 3 - December 27
An ice fishing musical comedy.
Ensemble Theatre of Cleveland
Cleveland Play House
8500 Euclid Avenue Cleveland
The Man Who Came to Dinner
By George Kaufman and Moss Hart
A comedy set in a small Ohio town in the 1930s. An outlandish radio wit comes for a family diner and chaos ensues.
Beck Center for the Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood
Fiddler on the Roof
By Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick
September 19-October 18
Based on tales by Sholem Aleichem, the musical centers on Tevye (George Roth), the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and religious traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives.
Peter Pan, the musical
December 4-January 3
Based on the play by James M. Barrie, with music by Mark Charlap and Jule Styne and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
A return engagement of last year’s holiday hit about a boy who won’t grow up.
The Hi Fi Concert Club
11729 Detroit Ave., Lakewood
Tickets $20 at HedwigCleveland.com
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Text by John Cameron Mitchell
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Starring: Dan Folino as Hedwig
September 4th-October 3rd
A rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Dance, dance and more dance!
The area has had a healthy dose of dance in the last couple of weeks, with more to come. Since the past programs aren’t going to be repeated, here are some quick comments about each and then some previews of what’s next.
POINTE OF DEPARTURE
On July 31, POINTE OF DEPARTURE, Karen Gabay and Raymond Rodriguez’s ballet company, took center stage at Cain Park. The duo, the former wunderkinds of the Cleveland San Jose Ballet, are local favorites. Several years ago they returned to the area for a summer concert with the promise of forming a permanent ballet company. Such a corps is needed as local companies are basically modern and contemporary groups.
The program, which was a series of duets, was danced to recorded music, and was well balanced as the classics blended with more modern pieces. The highlights included a delightful opening (COPPELIA, EXCERPT FROM ACT II) staring Gabay and Rodriguez. Also appealing was NUTCRACKER, GRANDE PAS DE DEUX, ACT II. Jing Zhang was lovely and the dynamic, high flying Damir Emric, displayed compelling stage presence. RAYMONDA, PAS DE DEUX AND VARIATIONS, ACT III, which showcased Gabay and the exciting Ramon Moreno, was another program highpoint. NUTCRACKER, SNOW PAS DE DEUX, ACT I, was exquisitely performed by Zhang and Emric.
The women dancers were generally good, the males with the exception of Moreno and Emric, were weak, doing more posing and walking then dancing.
Capsule judgement: The area needs a ballet company. It’s too bad the economy won’t support making POINTE OF DEPARTURE a local fixture.
On August 7, the stage of Cain Park lit up with the reinvigorated Verb Ballets. Having reorganized itself, adding new performers, and expanding its repertoire, the company took another forward step, though there were a few glitches.
The program opened with what appeared to be the under rehearsed URBAN STUDY, a mirror of the gritty and cold atmosphere of NYC, as choreographed by Ginger Thatcher. The unit timing was generally off, and the hand and body angles of dancers often not in sync. The highlight was a duet section performed by Brian Murphy and Jennifer Moll Safonovs.
ELEGIAC SONG, a Heinz Poll piece, as restaged by Jan Startzman, was a “wow” selection, with choreography perfectly matching the plaintive tones of Shostakovich’s music. Jennifer Moll Safanovs, again shone forth. Unfortunately, newcomer Antwon Duncan, as was the case throughout the evening, was flatfooted, not precise, and showed little enthusiasm. The women were excellent and Trad Burns lighting added greatly to setting the proper mood.
Safonovs and Murphy were strong in TSCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE DEUX as choreographed by George Balanchine. The duo works well together. Their partnering is precise, their moves fully executed, their talent shining through.
LADY BE GOOD, in its world premiere, closed the program. Choreographed by Gary Pierce to the music of George Gershwin, it was a well danced piece with formality, fun and smart moves. It was a pleasant way to end the evening.
Capsule judgement: The Cain Park Verb performance was a solid program. With the exception of several male dancers, the company did an excellent job of changing moods and dance style requirements.
The Blossom Festival will present ballet performances, for
the first time since the 1988 season. On August 22 and 23 The Joffrey Ballet will perform four signature works, accompanied by the Cleveland Orchestra. Place: Blossom Music Center, 1145 W Steels
Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223. For tickets: (330) 920-8040 or
On August 20, Dancing Wheels, will perform at Cain Park. The company is the first modern dance ensemble to integrate professional stand-up and sit-down (wheelchair) dancers. . For tickets call 216-371-3000.
DANCE SHOWCASE AT PLAYHOUSE SQUARE
Playhouse Square presents its seventh annual Dance Showcase on Friday, September 11 at 7 p.m. in the Ohio Theatre. Featuring eight of Northeast Ohio ’s professional dance companies, the performance highlights a wide array of dance styles from contemporary to ballet.
The companies performing are Antaeus Dance, Dance/Theater Collective, The Dancing Wheels Company, Foreground Dance, Inlet Dance Theatre, Ohio Dance Theater, Travesty Dance Group and Verb Ballets.
For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to www.playhousesquare.org.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
‘ME AND MY GAL,’ Mercury Summer Stock’s attempt at farce
On the surface, ‘ME AND MY GIRL,’ which is now on stage at Mercury Summer Stock, appears to be a light, escapist show that should be easy to stage, since its goal is out and out fun. Nothing could be further from the truth. The script is farce, and to make it more difficult, British farce. That style of theatre is very, very difficult to pull off well. It takes good underplaying, exquisite timing, and the perfect balance between realism and fantasy.
This musical tale concerns a cockney lad who inherits an earldom when his aristocratic father, who has had an affair with the lad’s working class mother, dies. Billy is tracked down, and the family finds out, much to their snobbish horror, that the only male heir, is everything they abhor….gross, out spoken and from Lambeth, a low class area of London. Chaos ensues, until, of course, all can live happily ever after, with the various romantic confusions settled nicely.
The musical, with book and lyrics by L. Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber, and music by Noel Gay, had its original London production in 1937, and ran four years. A revised London version had an even longer run in 1985 and the Broadway version, which opened in 1986, ran 1,420 performances.
Interestingly, the production’s show stopper, “The Lambeth Walk”, became a political cause, when in 1938, The London Times stated, “While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk.”
The Mercury production tries hard to create the right feel for the show. Maybe it tries too hard. Director Pierre-Jacques Brault pulls out all the stops, and shtick follows shtick which follows shtick. Normally, in British farce, the director lets the material develop its own image. Here Brault doesn’t seem to trust the script’s natural fun and inserts puppets, bubbles, over exaggeration of characters, use of every stereotype he could think of, and putting his lead actor in physical danger to do prat fall after prat fall.
Does he succeed? Depends on your viewpoint. The audience, the night I saw the show, laughed and laughed (but didn’t give it the traditional Mercury standing ovation). The elderly man sitting behind me audibly repeated every gimmick to his wife between giggles. On the other hand, what would have happened if Brault had let the book and lyrics speak for themselves? As Billy, the lead character might say, “Dun’t knuw. Din’t see et.”
His choreography is often quite clever, though some of the dancers struggle to do the steps without verbally counting.
Mercury Summer Theatre, though it bills itself as a “professionally based,” theatre is, for all practical purposes, an amateur community theatre populated by high school and college kids, with one professional thrown in, along with some adults of various theatrical backgrounds. This makes the acting pool rather inexperienced. Considering that, Brault gets some good performances.
Jennifer Myor sparkles as Sally, Bill’s “girl.” She has a nice singing voice, good stage presence, and a nice touch with humor. Cleveland favorite, Hester Lewellen, has the right airs as Maria, Bill’s stuffy aunt. Cindi Verbelun has a cute bit as Joan of Arc.
Brian Marshall, the only equity member of the cast, is very talented, but, in this role seems to have no restraint. He sings and dances well, but he literally throws himself all over the stage in attempts at humor. He did not need to be all Three Stooges rolled into one.
Some of the others feign and exaggerate; acting, rather than reacting to their lines and motivations.
The sets and, costumes, considering the minimal budget the theatre has, are quite impressive. Especially creative are the Pearly costumes, with their numerous button patterns.
Eddie Carney does a nice job of musical direction and his orchestra is very good.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you love slapstick and a production full of uncontrolled shticks, you’ll appreciate Mercury’s ‘ME AND MY GIRL.’
Sunday, August 02, 2009
SHAW FESTIVAL (second of a series of two)
In my previous article reviewing The Shaw Festival, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, I discussed Eugene O’Neil’s ‘STAR CHAMBER’ and ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTERS, as well as giving some hints of other-than-theatre events in the most beautiful little city in Canada. If you are interested in that review go on-line to www.royberko.info
One of the usual highlights of going to The Festival is to see plays by George Bernard Shaw, himself. Of the two Shavian works I saw this trip, one was outstanding, the other boring and poorly directed.
‘THE DEVIL’S DISCIPLE’, which gets a fine production, was Shaw's eighth play and the only one set in America. It, as is Shaw’s writing tradition, mocks religion, politicians, superstition and holier-than-thou members of society.
Set in a New England village during the Revolutionary War, Richard Dudgeon, a self-proclaimed devil’s disciple, finds himself mistaken for the local reverend. He is arrested by the British army as a rebel and in a twist of Shavian tradition, Dudgeon sacrifices himself in a Christ-like gesture. Evan Buliung develops a well-textured persona as Richard Duygeon. The play is purposefully directed by Tadeusz Bradecki and is one of the season’s highlights.
On the other hand, ‘IN GOOD KING CHARLES’S GOLDEN DAYS,’ is an overlong, boring, talky show which gets a weak production. Accents come and go, there is some shallow acting (especially by Lisa Codrington as the Duchess of Portsmouth and Ken James Stewart as Godfrey Kneller). Ric Reid (George Fox) screams his way through his role. This poor acting is shocking for a Festival production. The play is ill directed by Eda Holmes. At the end of the first act, the afternoon I saw the show, many in the audience left. At the end of the second act they fled for the exits, leaving a very small house to see the rest of the production.
But, then there was ‘SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.’ The Sondheim piece is not a tune-filled escapist musical. The script was inspired by the painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by pointillist, Georges Seurat. The show, which met with mixed reviews when it opened on Broadway, revolves around a fictionalized Seurat. In the first act we see the artist immersed in single-minded concentration while painting his masterpiece. In the second act we meet his grandson, also a single-minded artist. Other than “Putting It Together, the title song is the only tune that audiences might have heard, as the music and lyrics are so integrated into the story line that the songs seem like dialogue.
The show is well directed by Alisa Palmer. Steven Sutcliffe (George) is capable of portraying both Seurat and his grandson with good voice and character development.
This may not be a musical for everyone, but for those who like Sondheim and meaningful musicals, it is well worth seeing.
‘PLAY ORCHESTRA, PLAY’, part of Coward’s ‘TONIGHT AT 8:30” series, consists of three one-act plays, ‘RED PEPPERS, a British Vaudeville House comedy with music, ‘FUMED OAK’, and, ‘SHADOW PLAY,’ a farce with music. Christopher Newton’s direction was weak. All three shows dragged.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Of the shows I saw at The Shaw Festival this year I would strongly recommend ‘THE DEVIL’S DISCIPLE,’ ‘SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE,’ ‘STAR CHAMBER,’ and ‘BRIEF ENCOUNTERS.’ I did not see ‘BORN YESTERDAY,’ but, people whose judgement I trust indicate it is delightful.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
BIG LOVE,’ a fun, bizarre experience at convergence continuum
If you’ve ever attended a play at convergence continuum, Tremont’s 40-seat off-off Playhouse Square theatre, you know that the weirder the script, the more Clyde Simon, the venue’s artistic director, likes it. Charles Mee’s ‘BIG LOVE perfectly fits Simon’s passions.
‘Big Love’ is an adaptation of ‘THE SUPPLIANT MAIDENS, an ancient Greek play by Aeschylus. In its updated version, it is set on the southern coast of modern Italy. The story concerns 50 brides who flee their 50 grooms and seek asylum at a costal Italian villa. The brides arrive clothed in their wedding dresses, supposedly having swum to shore (from where we do not know). They are met by the villa’s colorful family (a swinging old stereotypically dressed Italian lady who has mothered a brood of boys), her gay attendant, her devoted oldest son, and a couple of eccentric visitors. Attempts to convince the brides to consent to marry don’t work and the women come to the conclusion that they will marry, kill their husbands on the wedding night, and then live happily ever after. (I told you Simon loves the bizarre.) Of course, there are lots of twists and turns and dead body parts flying around.
The convergence stage won’t hold 50 couples, so we only meet three of them. One “bride” is a strident feminist, while her groom is the ultimate misogynist; a second bride is a slightly airheaded Cinderella who only wants a man to take care of her, and she is betrothed to a puppy dog man who is none too bright. The third couple represents the happy medium.
Author Mee says of the script, "I wanted to go back to one of the earliest plays of the Western World and see how it would look today. See if it still spoke to the moment, and of course it does. It’s all about refugees and gender wars and men and women trying to find what will get them through the rubble of dysfunctional relationships, and anger and rage and heartache.”
Convergence’s production is basically well done. The cast, with a couple of exceptions is fine. Lauren Smith (Thyona) is right on target as the women’s libber bride (and, if you say differently, she appears like she can beat the bejeebers out of you). Laurel Johnson looks like she just escaped from a Barbie doll wrapping and plays the air headed Olympia with perfect ease. Liz Conway (Lydia) plays the “normal” bride with the right touch of certainty and uncertainty. Their “grooms” are equal to the task. Scott Gorbach (Nilos) does a perfect Forrest Gump. His constant dazed expression is priceless. Studly Geoffrey Hoffman (Constantine) is the macho Alpha man incarnate and Stuart Hoffman plays straight, straight.
Lucy Bredeson-Smith (Bella) is hysterical as the “innocent” promiscuous old lady who has a history of mothering children with various men who are the “loves of her life.” Her polishing tomatoes scene is a show stopper.
Guitarist Mark K uses his guitar well to bridge scenes and moods.
Bobby Williams as Piero, Bella’s son, spends too much time feigning and posing to develop a realistic presentation, while Tony Thai overdoes every fay gay stereotypical movement to portray Marco. His feet hardly hit the floor as he flits around.
Jeremy Paul has created some impressive animation videos and Jim Smith’s set is impressive.
There are production problems. The bride’s crawl on shore, after being in the water, and emerges totally dry. Also, we can see clearly through the gauzy front screen and see the fake pantomiming of the“killings,” and….(but it matters little, the whole bizarre thing works).
Capsule Judgement: Charles Mee’s ‘BIG LOVE,’ in all of its craziness has a message or two and gets a fun production at convergence-continuum. The theatre only has 39 seats, so if you are planning on going, call now!