Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tribute for David O. Frazier, and some quickie reviews (Cirque Du Soleil’s OVO, CPH’s NEW. THEATRE.FESTIVAL and Blank Canvas)

CELEBRATING OUR RASCAL, a tribute to David O. Frazier

A massive turnout filled the State Theatre on April 25 to pay tribute to David O. Frazier, actor, singer, storyteller, rascal, but, most importantly, a kind and wonderful person and friend.  Luminaries who spoke in a creative and fun-filled remembrance ceremony included Gina Vernaci (speaking for Playhouse Square), Carol Frankel, Kevin Moore (Cleveland Play House spokesperson), Loree Vick, Dennis Kucinich (who read a proclamation passed by the United States House of Representative in David’s honor), Cliff Bemis and Terry Piteo (fellow cast members from the musical JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL, which is credited with having saved the Playhouse Square theatres from destruction), Oliver Henkel, Lainie Hadden and, David’s husband, Joe Garry.

Musical entertainment was provided by Marge Adler, David Gooding, Gusti and Kyle Corrigan.

David, who lived life to the fullest, died with great dignity, after a long battle with illness.  When David was released from the Cleveland Clinic, a short time ago, the doctors, nurses and staff lined up in the hallway and gave him a standing ovation as he exited in a wheelchair.  Only he would have thought to say, “I have had many standing ovations, but never a sitting ovation!”

When David performed “Irish Rascal” at the National Theatre of Scotland, a critic wrote, “His towering performance grabbed the audience by the throat.”  As his husband, Joe said, in the printed program from the service, “He grabbed my heart in the same way.”  “He was the We of Me.” 

Those of us who not only admired David as the ultimate entertainer, but considered him to be a very special friend, I can only add, “thank you for being the you of you.”

(Donations can be made in David’s name to Cleveland Play House (att: Lis Horrigan, 1407 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115 or Playhouse Square (Attn:  Michelle Stewart, 1501 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115.

Cirque Du Soleil’s OVO astounds and delights

Cirque du soleil’s OVO, “a riot of energy and movement,” which took two years to create, is playing at the Wolstein Center from April 28-May 1, 2016.

The show centers on Ovo, meaning egg in Portuguese and examines the ecosystem in which bugs work and play.  And, play they do!

What do you experience?  Non-stop visual wonders created by jugglers, gymnasts, acrobats, aerialists, dancers, clowns, high-wire walkers, contortionists, trampolinists, musicians, singers, and slapstick comedians, performing in a massive set which includes a rock-climbing wall, a center stage which turns and twirls, smaller stages which form the basis for rope climbers, swinging and sailing bodies, and places to jump off from.  All this set against a back wall of ever-changing projections.

It’s a full-fledged circus of mind-bending awe which produces squeals of joy, delight and wonder from adults and children alike. 

Based in Montreal, Canada, since 1984,  the Cirque du Soleil entertainment creates dramatic shows that include street entertainment and circus acts, minus the performing exotic animals.

Tickets, which range from $35 to $145 for adults and $25-$116 for children 2-12, can be obtained by going online to or calling 1-844-2279.

NEW. THEATRE. FESTIVAL—Cleveland Play House’s gala 100 th Anniversary conclusion

Cleveland Play House brought to an end it’s “Year of the Tony” and hundredth year celebration entitled, NEW. THEATRE. FESTIVAL—2016.

Included in the program, underwritten by arts patron, Roe Green, were a series of plays and readings including:  Productions of MR. WOLF and THE GOOD PEACHES, “Behind-the-Scenes:  A conversation with 2016 Roe Green Winner playwright Kirsten Greenidge,” a reading of Cleveland Heights playwright Eric Coble’s FEED, and a reading of Greenidge’s work-in-progress, LITTLE BOAT OR CONJECTURE.

The capsule judgment of my review of MR. WOLF, written by Cleveland Heights award winning playwright Rajiv Joseph stated, “MR WOLF is a study of a girl, a man and a family in turmoil.  The dark drama leaves many unanswered questions that should tweak after-production discussions.  It is a play which will confound some, and exhilarate others (including me).  It is the kind of script that CPH should do more of in order to stretch the audience to be exposed to a wide range of theater.  The entire article can found at

THE GOOD PEACHES, the world premiere of a work commission by Cleveland Play House in collaboration with The Cleveland Orchestra, was a thought-provoking oral legend set to the melodies of Benjamin Britten and John Adams.  It combined a story of survival and discovery with live music performed by the world-class orchestra.

The production was creatively staged by Laura Kepley in a set which encircled the orchestra, directed by Brett Mitchell, in a large curved platform ingeniously designed by Philip Witcomb.

A story of a flood, probably caused by a tsunami, tells the tale of a young girl who survives by eating peaches miraculously kept afloat from an orchard near her home.  The overall effect was visually gorgeous and emotionally stimulating.

A discussion-talkback following Coble’s FEED, which is based on M. T. Anderson’s novel of the same name,  brought thoughtful comments from a group, consisting mainly of high school students, who were excited over the author’s discussion of electronic media, his use of modern idioms, and understanding today’s youth.  As is the case with workshops and readings of new plays, Coble indicated he will take the feedback and adjust the script in its process toward full production.  The cast, mostly made up of CPH-CWRU graduate students, did an excellent job of creating the characters and holding the audience’s attention.  Peter Hargrave was outstanding as Titus, the lead character.

LITTLE BOAT OR CONJECTURE, Greenidge’s work-in-progress, did not seem to be as close to production ready as FEED.  Overly long and obtuse, the work needs much adjusting.  The reading, which unfortunately lacked smooth presentation and contained many stumbles and shallow character development, was not well conceived or developed by its director and cast.

Blank Canvas delights with two well directed one-acts

Blank Canvas is Patrick Ciamacco’s toy chest.  He pulls out plays that please his niche audience that go for contemporary, often off-the wall scripts.  His latest effort was to allow Christine Howey, who appeared in this year’s New York Fringe Festival, to take two of festival one-act plays and stage them over two weekends.  The result was a very creative and delightful evening of theatre.

Adam Harrell’s BIRDS OF PARADISE finds Archie (Stuart Hoffman with great comic timing and exaggerated facial expressions),  a nerdy ornithologist and romantic, and Emma (a charming Rachael Swartz), a free-spirited but broken-hearted would-be artist, trying to figure out their own migration paths.  The lovebirds struggle between giving love a chance and becoming authenic versions of themselves.

The other offering was the meta-fictional comedy, THE SCREENWRITER DIES OF HIS OWN FREE WILL by Jim Shankman.  

A screenwriter of shallow sci-fi and action flicks (Willy), narrates to himself, complete with stage directions and dialogue, what happens when he goes to sell his “last” screen script to studio executive (Gabe,) his frenemy since their college days at Princeton. 

Willy uses his impending death to sell a screenplay, yes, entitled THE SCREENWRITER DIES OF HIS OWN FREE WILL, which was written while he was high on drugs. 

The script is full of rapid-fire dialogue which builds as the play develops, leaves the audience giggling and the actors gasping for air.

Both John J. Polk (as Gage) and Tim Tavcar (as Willy) were delightful!

The double header ran from April 15th to the 23rd.