Monday, August 29, 2016

SELFIES AT THE CLOWN MOTEL confounds @ convergence continuum

Christopher Johnston is the coordinator of “The Playwrights Gym at Dobama, co-founder of The Dark Room, a new works development workshop at CPT and the Rauschenberg New Play Reading Series for convergence-continuum.”  His script, Selfies at the Clown Motel, is presently being staged at con-con.

Arthur Miller wrote plays centering on the philosophical concept of “is this the best way to live?”  Tennessee Williams, often using his own life, tells of his mother and sister as the basis for his scripts, women who found themselves in societies which they didn’t understand and whose inhabitants didn’t understand the women.  William Inge looked at the darkness in life, those events in the hidden corners that challenged his characters.

It is not apparent what Christopher Johnston uses as the fulcrum for his plays.  He states in his program notes of Selfies that it is a “rendezvous of two lost and lonely souls.”  So???

The play opens with a man and woman having sex.  Each apparently reaches satisfaction, there is a scream, and it becomes apparent that the male has died, with no apparent follow-up or latter plot reference to the event.

We become aware that the woman’s family owns the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, she is a wire-walking clown, is having an affair with a motorcycle-riding married man who has abandoned his family, has a mother (Agnes) and brother  (Skar) who are psychotic, that she probably had an affair with her brother, well, he’s not exactly her brother, they appear to have the same mother but different fathers, had an abortion, her older “lover” comes and goes, there are scenes of male nudity, S & M, expelling of gas, discussions of casual sex, orgasms, and . . . 

There actually is a Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada.  It is a small place that is noted for its decorative array of stuffed, mechanical, sculptures and paintings of clowns.  A Google search reveals that there are supposedly over 600 “collectable” clowns or facsimiles on the premises.

Selfies is a convoluted tale of perversion and a dysfunctional family, with little obvious purpose. 

The show’s saving grace are the two outstanding performances by the athletic, beautiful Leah Smith (Chloe), as the clown, and John Busser (Rob) as her older lover.  Both nicely texture their characterizations and create a duo of frustrated, rudderless people, who have little purpose in their lives.

The use of clowns to reset scenes is clever, but over done.  How many times can the circus performers arrange and rearrange the bedspread and pillows before the effect becomes worn out?

The title of the play comes from a continuous taking of smart phone pictures which appear on a screen imbedded into one of the walls of the set.

Capsule Judgement:  Selfies at the Clown Motel is a difficult play to sit through.  It’s lack of focus, purpose, even with several outstanding performances, leaves little to recommend it.

SELFIES AT THE CLOWN MOTEL runs through September 17 2016 at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to

convergence-continuum’s next show is  Like I Say, Len Jenkin’s comic play with stories within stories, weird puppet shows, and an Alpine Zombie resort, running from October 14-November 5, 2016.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

KINKY BOOTS gets better and better with each visit to the Connor Palace

When KINKY BOOTS played Playhouse Square in April of 2015, while still running on Broadway, it was a really good performance.  The show is back again and, believe it or not, it’s even better this time around. 

The Harvey Fierstein (book) and Cyndi Lauper (music and lyrics) award-winning musical is back by demand for a short run. 

KINKY BOOTS is based on the true story of a men’s shoe factory in England which, when the cheap, mass-produced Asian knock-offs invaded the market, wiping out the handmade products, transitions to producing for a niche market…cross-dressing men who needed a sturdy boot that the Asians can’t  produce.

The story, which was made into a 1999 British TV special, then a 2005 film, centers on Charlie Price, who is left a man’s high-end shoe company in Northampton, England, by his father, and Lola, a she-male who has a fascination with shoes, but especially has designs set on red, spike-heeled boots. 

The duo form a partnership when Charlie is faced with bankruptcy, causing the potential laying-off of his loyal employees, and Lola, a drag queen/entertainer who, along with her dancing Angels, keeps breaking the heels on their poorly made boots.  It’s a match made in heaven, except for the prejudices against Lola, and the financial and personal pressures pressed on Charlie.

Take the story, which stresses that to be happy in life you must “accept someone for who they are,” add some pop, funk, new wave music, lyrics that are perfectly drawn for each character, humorous situations, and dynamic choreography, and you have a show which was given 13 Tony nominations and garnered 6 Tony wins, including Best Musical and Best Score.

Handsome  J. Harrison Ghee  is every bit as good as Billy Porter, the show’s original Lola.   Ghee lights up the stage. He has a strong singing voice, and the charisma that makes Lola appealing, while showing vulnerability.   He is a master at extended farce and is drag queen extraordinaire.  His “Land of Lola,” sung with the Angels, is a dynamic showstopper. 

Adam Kaplan, as Charlie, displays a personal vulnerability and insecurity that perfectly fit the character’s underpinnings, yet, the strength to act with conviction when needed.  He has a strong singing voice and nicely textures Charlie into a real person.

Kaplan’s “Soul of a Man “ and “Not My Father’s Son,” his duet with Gee, are emotional tear-jerkers that carry two of the script’s messages. 

Tiffany Engen is adorable as Lauren, the girl who has a history of making bad dating choices as expressed the well sung “The History of Wrong Guys,” but may finally have found the right one in Charlie, if he can ditch his finance.

As Don, Aaron Walpole makes the transition from macho homophobe to charmer with ease as he takes to heart the idea of “accept someone for who they are!,” the centerpiece of Fierstein’s bid for tolerance and acceptance.

The costumes and sets are professionally done and the orchestra, though it gets a little out of hand once in a while, drowning out the singers, is in fine tune.

Director and choreographer, Jerry Mitchell, has paced the show well, created many exciting dance numbers including “Everybody Say Yeah,” and the curtain closer, “Raise You Up/Just Be.”

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  KINKY BOOTS is the kind of musical that seeing it once is just not enough. (I’ve seen it three times and look forward to more!)  The music, the storyline, the humor, the stage excitement makes this a very, very special theatrical experience.  This touring production of the show is as good as the last one through town and rivals the Broadway show.  This is one staging that deserves a standing ovation, not just the automatic polite Cleveland one, but a real, well-earned one.  Go! 

Tickets for KINKY BOOTS, which runs through August 28, 2016 at the Connor Palace, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Scottish Play (Ma…th) holds forth at Ohio Shakespeare Festival

Theater people are very superstitious.  A light is placed center stage in many theatres, appropriately called the “ghost light,” to scare off the demons which inhabit many performance places. 

The phrase “break a leg” is the traditional well wishing greeting used before a production as it is considered “bad luck” to wish someone "good luck" in the theatre.

Never, never is the name of “M/A/C/B/E/T/H” spoken by producers, directors or casts of “that” script.  The term “The Scottish Play” is used instead.  Actors even avoid quoting lines from the script before performances, particularly the witches’ incantations. 

“If an actor speaks the name "Macbeth" in a theatre prior to one of the performances, he or she is required to leave the theatre building, spin around three times, spit, curse, and then knock to be allowed back in.”

“One version of this legend claims that it was the actor who played Lady Macbeth who died during the play's first production run and that Shakespeare himself had to assume the role.”

Obviously, one of the cast of the Ohio Shakespeare’s “The Scottish Play” must have stated the play’s name, or said a speech, before the recent Saturday night production of the show, which is onstage on the grounds of Stan Hewett Hall. For a few minutes after the lights went up to start the show, rain poured down, drenching the audience and the actors.  But, true to another theater tradition, “The show must go on,” and, so it did!

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays.  It is a tale of greed, the desire for power and the vile things that people will do to get what they want.  A gruesome tragedy, it tells the tale of an ambitious man, stirred on by his evil wife, who becomes king and holds on to his power via a reign of terror. 

As with all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, it is a tale which highlights the flaws of its protagonist, who, in this instance, is transformed from a noble war hero into a tyrannical murderer.

Macbeth is filled with often quoted lines, “If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly,” (Macbeth’s soliloquy on whether he should kill Duncan), “Out, damned spot; out, I say.” (Lady Macbeth’s speech reflecting her guilt for orchestrating many of the murders by or caused by her husband), “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing.” (Words uttered by Macbeth after he hears of Lady Macbeth’s death).

The Ohio Shakespeare Festival, housed on the grounds of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, is now in its fifteenth year.  It is a professional theatre company dedicated to “articulating the inherently theatrical components of Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights throughout the ages in a manner that enables the collected imaginations of the artists to meet the collective imagination of the audience in a public celebration that transforms the world in which we live.”

You don’t go to OSF expecting the same quality of performance as you would at The Stratford Festival in Canada or The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland where classically trained actors hold roost and massive amounts of money are spent to stage a production. 

You go to be enveloped in the beautiful Stan Hywet Hall gardens, forests, and buildings. 

You go for the delightful Greenshow, a pre-main production which comically blends together a Shakespeare tale with whatever pops into the minds of the director and his staff.  On the night I went there were segments of Les Miz and Man of LaMancha, and a tennis ball battle, meshed into the tales of old England stories. 

You go to see Shakespeare that is accessible to those who are aficionados of the Bard and those who are not!

OSF’s production of Macbeth is well-done, easy to understand (American pronunciation is used), and moves along at a comfortable pace.  The acting is uneven, as can be expected from a company whose performers are not all classically trained, but that does not distract from the overall pleasure of the evening.  Bernard Bygott, a graduate from CWRU/Cleveland Playhouse’s MFA program did a nice turn as Macbeth.

The rules:  If it rains have an umbrella or raincoat available for they seldom cancel a show.  If there is dangerous weather, the audience takes cover in the nearby Corbin Conservatory.  If the weather clears, the show will continue where it left off.

“Off” bug spray is available at the ticket and concession tents.

You can bring a picnic.  There are tables and lots of places to lay out your food and beverages.  If you prefer, there are snacks available at the concession tent.  

Exploring the grounds of Stan Hywet and the glorious gardens are encouraged.

The Greenshow starts at 7:30 and you can eat and watch songs, dances, parodies, sword fighting and general revelry. 

Capsule judgement:  Macbeth gets an appealing, audience-friendly production by OSF on the magnificent grounds of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens.  The evening was enhanced by a delightful Greenshow before the main production. 

Macbeth runs through August 21 @ Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, 714 N. Portage Path, Akron.  For tickets call 330-673-8761 or 1-888-71-TICKETS.  For information go to

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Objectively/Reasonable (A Community response to the Shooting of Tamir Rice) is an emotional rollercoaster


On November 22, 2014, twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot at close range by police officer Timothy Loehmann outside the Cudell Recreation Center on Cleveland’s near west side.  Tamir died the next day. 

Soon after the incident, “a surveillance video was released which captured the officers drive-up, as well as footage of Tamir’s replica pistol (missing its orange toy-distinguishing cap) which generated the original 911 call.”  The grand jury declined to indict the officers on criminal charges.  In “April 2016, the city of Cleveland signed a $6 million settlement with the estate of Tamir Rice admitting no wrongdoing.”

Rice joined an ever-growing list of black tweens, teens and men who died at the hands of police officers. 

In describing the case, County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty used the phrase “objectively reasonable” to describe the officers’ actions.

Playwrights Local, the area’s newest theatrical group, is presenting the world premiere of Objectively/Reasonable (A Community Response to the Shooting of Tamir Rice, 11/22/14), a script and performance conceived by the theatre.

The authors of the script interviewed Cudell residents, legal experts, teachers, activists and mothers for their reactions to and thoughts about what happened. 

Playwrights Mike Geither, Tom Hayes, Lisa Langford, Michael Oatman and David Todd did the interviews to reflect the community’s responses, thus giving a voice to the “silent people.” They wrote the segments for the script, mostly monologues.  Todd, as the dramaturge, wove the drama together and the play’s director, Terrence Spivey, bridged the pieces with staging devices, including singing, dancing, electronic media and verbal and nonverbal sounds and actions.

The play created an emotional rollercoaster.  Mind-boggling “what ifs,” “why did that happen,” “why was . . .,” and “if only . . .,” thoughts and feelings resulted.

What if the police had stopped when they arrived, not shot within several seconds and tried to talk to the boy?  What would have happened if the 911 operator’s words had been clearly conveyed?  (The original caller had indicated the gun was “probably fake.”) 

If only the police had been trained in how to do non-confrontational actions, or the negative climate of young black male versus police wasn’t the community norm. 

If only Loehmann’s past record had been carefully considered before he was hired by the Cleveland Police.  It was reported that “he was rejected for a deputy Sheriff job in 2013, and was unsuccessful in getting jobs with the police departments in Akron, Euclid, and Parma Heights.  He resigned in 2012 from the Independence police department, after only a short time in the department, following a poor performance review.” 

In this era of high stress, why was a twelve-year-old even playing with a toy gun?

The cast (Ashley Aquilla, Kaila Benford, India Burton, Samone Cummings, Ananias Dixon, Kali Hatten, Jameka Terri, LaShawn Little, Brenton Lyles and Nathan Tolliver) each portrayed numerous characters with clarity of purpose.

A special spotlight must be focused on Ashley Aquila for her emotionally evident, but well controlled monologue of the words of Samaria Rice.  Tears flowing, she slowly textured Samaria’s words. 

(Little did most of the audience know that Mrs. Rice was in attendance.  Following the show, during the talk-back, the well spoken woman indicated that she would be calling upon members of the cast to perform their words as part of her efforts to insure Tamir’s legacy.)

Though a little long, especially with an audience sitting on hard church benches, the script holds the attention with sensitive, curious, straight forward, probing, and highly emotional speeches.  

Though repetition led to some redundancy, much of the material works.  If further productions are to be done, based on this presentation, the authors might want to consider some tightening of monologues and cutting of some speeches and the adjustment of the ending so that the audience is aware when the play is over.

The use of pictures and video to supplement the story helps add texture to the speeches.  When action was not presented on the screen, a picture of the Cudell cupola hung over the action as a sad reminder of the site of the horror.

The talkback which followed the presentation, moderated by former county commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, brought out a series of provocative points including that the police culture needs to be changed, a return to neighborhood policing needs to be undertaken, the probes as to whether Tamir would have been shot if he was white and if white members of the audience would like to go through life as an African American male.  Cleveland’s segregation pattern:  east-black, west-white, much like cities in the South, the drive-by shootings and murders, and the low quality of schools, were also topics discussed. 

Capsule judgment:  It is the purpose of the Playwrights Local to produce works of North Eastern Ohio writers.  If their future efforts produce anything like this painful to watch but well conceived play, their purpose will be well confirmed.  This is a must see experience for anyone interested in the real world around them, especially if they are not part of the African American community.

Playwrights Local 4181’s next production will be The 2 nd Annual Cleveland Playwrights Festival to be staged in November. For information go to:

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Silk Road Ensemble enthralls capacity crowd at Blossom

Culture matters!

It was a soggy night at Blossom, but neither the rain nor the humidity dampened the enthusiasm of the crowd that filled the pavilion and covered much of the lawn for the Saturday, August 13 evening concert of the Silk Road Ensemble.

Anyone attending who thought they were seeing a traditional Cleveland Orchestra concert were immediately altered to “this is going to be something different” by the lack of the usual seating arrangement for the orchestra and a stage filled with Chinese gongs, as well as a tabla, kamancheh, Galician bagpipes, shakuhachi, pipa, sheng, and suona.  Don’t know what those instruments are?  Have never heard them played? That’s part of the purpose for the Silk Road Ensemble.

Silkroad was founded by Yo-Yo Ma in 1998 to explore how the arts can advance global understanding.  His purpose was to “connect the world through the arts.” He wanted to “promote cross-cultural education, business, and the arts” to transform the world.  “Silkroad is a connector and bridge builder; the Ensemble’s music is vitally reflective of our shared humanity and our global trajectories, and plays a natural role in the need for greater cross-cultural exchange.”

Ma, a Julliard School and Harvard University trained cellist, has led the group to commission more than 80 works, as well as a yearly annual tour and educational programs.

With an emphasis on celebrating differences and cultivating curiosity in exploring and sharing, the Blossom program presented fourteen compositions, divided into seven sections.  Included were musical modes and rhythmic sounds covering such global areas as the Yangtze River, the Czech homeland of Antonin Dvorák ,  West Africa, Ireland, Japan, sub-Arctic Scandinavia, Finland, the Bengali-speaking regions of the Brahmaputra River, New York, the land of the Roma gypsies, Spain, and Syria.

Silkroad intends to weave together the foreign and familiar into a new musical language, “which embraces our differences and celebrates the joy we find in one another.”  This is based on the belief that “art , in all its forms, opens windows on the world and offers new ways to connect in the face of fragmentation and friction.”

This was not a Yo-Yo Ma concert.  It was an exposure to music of the world, presented through solo and blended works of seventeen extraordinary musicians.  It is music that  has been highlighted in “The Music of Strangers,” a 2015 one-and-a-half-hour documentary from Oscar-winner, Morgan Neville, that captures five of the many individual journeys of Silkroad.

The group’s newest recording is “Sing Me Home,” in which Silkroad musicians reflect on the meaning of home, interpreting original and traditional folk songs.  Many of those selections were included in the recent Blossom concert.

Capsule judgment: From the opening “duel” between Christina Pato’s Galician bagpipes and Wu Ton’s suona (Chinese horn) to the creation of train sounds in the fascinating arrangement of “Take the ‘A’ Train” by percussion and pipa (four-string Chinese musical instrument marvelously played by Wu Man), and “Wedding,” the third and final movement of Kinan Azmeh’s 2007 Syrian composition for clarinet, oud (an 11 to 12 string pear-shaped instrument) and vocalization (the well-tuned singing voice of  Wu Tong), the program grabbed and held the audience’s attention.  Bravo!

Upcoming:  The 2016 Blossom season comes to a conclusion with:
“The Music of Led Zeppelin (August 20), Orpheus Plays Bach (August 27) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (September 3-4)

For Blossom tickets call 216-231-1111 or go to

Monday, August 08, 2016

GLENGARRY GLENROSS doesn’t close the deal at Blank Canvas

David Mamet, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of Glengarry Glen Ross, a play which is now on stage at Blank Canvas, is noted for his unique style of writing dialogue.  Dubbed “Mamet speak,” his vocal tone centers on precisely crafted street-smart narrative style.  His characters talk “real.”  They sound like the way people from the geographical area and societal level from which they come would really speak.  This is not “speech for a play,” it is actual people speaking, with vocalized pauses (“ums,” “you know,” and “things like that.” 

In his scripts, “he often uses italics and quotation marks to highlight particular words and to draw attention to his characters’ frequent manipulation and deceitful use of language.  His characters frequently interrupt one another, their sentences trail off unfinished, and their dialogue overlaps.”

Mamet tends to write “character studies,” not well-made plot-driven shows.

Glengarry Glen Ross is definitely not plot driven.  Instead, the razor-knife sharp tongued comedy, which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, centers on employees of a realty company that sell property, such as Glengarry Highlands, to reluctant buyers.

The salesmen are desperate, cut throat.  Men who cajole, wheel-and-deal to make “the board”--the list of who get prizes, such as new cars, for being the top salesman for the month.  They will do anything to get the “hot” leads, people who might be sold whatever property the salesman is pushing.

The play takes place in Chicago in a two-day span during 1980, and showcases four Chicago real estate agents, who display their ability to lie, flatter, bribe, threaten, intimidate and even turn to burglary in order to sell each other and their clients.

This is not a made-up story.  It reflects a period in Mamet’s life when he worked for a realty company and shared his time with Glen Ross-like salesmen.

Mamet introduces the characters in three-short scenes set in a Chinese restaurant, downstairs of the real estate office.  The first scene finds Shelly Levene (Darrell Starnik), a past-his-prime agent trying to convince office manager, John Williamson (Daniel Scott Telford), to give him the names of some promising potential clients.  Bribery and threats are the order of the day.

Scene 2 centers on Dave Moss (Jeff Glover) trying to convince George Aaronow (Chris D’Amico) to break into the office and steal the prime leads list which can be sold to a competitor for a considerable profit.  Intimidation and playing on emotions highlights their conversation.

Scene 3 finds Richard Roma (Daniel McElhaney), the firm’s hotshot salesman, preying on the insecurities of James Lingk (Greg Mandryk), a man who Roma starts talking to in the restaurant.  Using his charm, Roma beguiles Lingk to invest in some property.  Charm, manipulation and careful “victim” analysis are center stage in this scene.

The long fourth scene (Act 2) shows the fallout from the office break-in, and puts the spotlight on the pressures under which the salesmen work, and how those pressures effect each person.

The play opened on Broadway in 1984 and ran for almost a year.  It was nominated for four Tony Awards.  It was later made into a major motion picture starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemon, Alan Arkin, Alex Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey.

The Blank Canvas production has some high and low points.

In order for a Mamet play to work, the characters must be real.  No acting here, no melodrama, no feigning realism, no fake gestures, no screaming without motivation, no overacting.  Unfortunately, several of the actors in the cast simply didn’t seem up to the task.  Whether it was opening night jitters, lack of understanding Mamet’s writing, or the lack of ability, is an unknown factor.

McElhaney’s Ricky Roma, showed the right balance of the character’s virility, ruthlessness and slick immorality.  He was clearly comfortable portraying the smooth talker with a tendency toward poetic soliloquies.

Greg Mandryk was spot on as the easily manipulated James Lingk who was cowed by Roma’s manipulative powers.

Chris D’Amico nicely created George Aaronow as a person lacking both confidence and hope, whose conscience stopped him from being manipulated into stealing the leads from the office by the overpowering Dave Moss (Jeff Glover who failed to texture his performance, shouting his way through almost all of his speeches).

Daniel Scott Telford as John Williamson, the young office manager who held his position due to paternalism, never quite established a clear character.  His opening scene with Darrell Starnik set a weak tone for the rest of the play.  Starnik, portraying  Shelly Levene, surface acted, failed to “talk real.”

Whether the lack of airflow was intentional or not, the overly warm theatre intensified the emotional level of the play.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: Glengarry Glen Ross was the first David Mamet play I ever saw.  Fortunately, it was on Broadway where each of the characters was so real that it was easy to react to each as a person, not a character in a play.  Unfortunately, this was not the case in the Blank Canvas production.  Too bad.  The script can be mesmerizing.
Blank Canvas’s Glengarry Glen Ross runs though August 20 in its west side theatre, 1305 West 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland.   For tickets and directions go to

Up next:  Blank Canvas Theatre’s 2016 Benefit on September 3.  For information check their website.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Unsettling, haunting Sans Merci @ none too fragile

When the lights went off to signal the ending of none too fragile’s production of Johnna Adams’ unsettling, haunting, thought-provoking Sans Merci, my immediate reaction was, “Oh, please fellow audience members, don’t clap!”

“Please don’t!  This experience needs a respectful silence.” Applauding at the end of this play was like cheering at the end of a eulogy.  It was a feeling that I’ve only had a handful of times in the theatre...Broadway’s Disgraced, The Bad Seed and The Father, come to mind.  This is a  play that deserves quiet thought, not raucous applause.

But, sure enough, either our of duty or shocked reaction, the cheers rung out and the assemblage leaped to their feet. 

Me?  I sat there in deep thought.  The fifty-minute ride home was done in total silence.  My mind was gone…stuck on the theatre’s stage, reliving what I had just seen and heard.  Now, twelve hours later, I am still in a state of suspended shock.

What brought about my reaction?

At the start of Sans Merci (which can be interpreted as “without mercy”), Kelly (Cassandra West) is tossing and turning on the aged couch of an unkempt apartment.  There is a knock on the door.  After several more raps, Kelly, walking with a crutch, hobbles to the door, opens it and reveals a mature woman who she does not know.   When the woman asks if she is Kelly, with some obvious concern, Kelly lets her in.

Within a short period we find out that the guest is Elizabeth (Harriet DeVeto), the mother of Tracy, Kelly’s college friend. 

Through a series of flashbacks it is revealed that Tracy (Miranda Scholl) was a college lit major with little confidence, and communication anxiety, which resulted in panic attacks when she was required to speak in class.  When Tracy has an attack in class, and runs out, she is followed by Kelly, who gives her sympathy and positive feedback.  Tracy goes back to class, finishes the presentation, gets an “A.”  Tracy and Kelly become acquaintances, and eventually lovers.

Kelly is an idealist who dedicates herself to good deeds to “save the world.”  She overlooks possible dangers, and is unrealistic about whether or not she is really actually solving problems.

She is going to South America to make a documentary about a native tribe whose historic lands include a mountain range which it considers to be sacred.  That land is desired by an oil company,  remove the “blood” from the land.  She wants to make a documentary illustrating the “rape” of the land by the petroleum firm.  The area is also a political hotbed where a civil war is being raged. 

That not withstanding she talks Tracy into going with her, with disastrous results.  Both young women are raped, Kelly shot, Tracy killed (“sans merci”).

Three years after the incident, Elizabeth has come to Kelly to get any possessions of Tracy’s that her former lover has, and to find out about how Tracy died.   Elizabeth and Kelly have never met.  It readily becomes apparent that the extremely conservative Republican Elizabeth and the overly liberal, often unrealistic Kelly, have only one thing in common--they both loved Tracy.

When Kelly reveals that she and Tracy were lovers, Elizabeth insists over and over that her daughter was “only going through a phase” and that if she had never become involved with Kelly, Tracy would not have gone on the mission and would still be alive.

Even though it is overlong and too talky, the script is dramatic, gripping and often riveting.  It nicely balances love and heartbreak.  The writer, whose tale includes many references to poetry, and the script which contains poetic material, is often poetic in form.

The none too fragile production, adeptly directed by Sean Derry and Brain Kenneth Armour, is well focused, if a little bit languid in pace. 

The performances are strong, but on opening night it was obvious that all of the performers, especially Harriet DeVeto, fell into the trap of assuming that since the NTF performance area is small, projection was not necessary. DeVeto, who displayed a stoic attitude,  as the angry mother of the dead girl, often fell into whispering, underplaying the role so much that fully half of her speeches could not be heard.  Too bad.  The words of the play are vital and deserve to be revealed.  Hopefully, as she becomes used to the space, her projection will increase.

Cassandra West nicely develops the idealistic Kelly, caught between causes and guilt for leading Tracy toward her death.  Miranda Scholl does a nice turn with anxiety and is generally sweet.  Her death scene is vivid and scary!

Be aware that there is female nudity, simulated lesbian sex, vivid language, and a gunshot during the play.  

Capsule judgement:  none too fragile continues to astound with the high quality of their productions.  They tend to pick meaningful scripts and give them very proficient staging.  Sans Merci insures a rollercoaster of emotion and is an absolutely must see!


For tickets for Sans Merci, which runs through August 20 (performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday @ 8 and selected Sundays at 2), call 330-671-4563 or go to

The next none too fragile production is Matthew Lopez’s THE WHIPPING MAN.  If you missed the Cleveland Play House’s spellbinding production of this script several years ago, this is your chance to experience this vital script.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

2016 Fall Cleveland Theater Calendar

Soon, the leaves will start to turn and many local theatres will be lifting their curtains to welcome  a new season.   Here’s a list of some of the offerings of local theatres through the fall season.  SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL THEATRES!

You can track my reviews on, or contact me to get on my direct review list.  You can see a synopsis of the local reviewers’ comments about the plays at

216-521-2540 or
8 p.m. evenings, 3 p.m. matinees

RUTHLESS!, September 16-October 16-- Ruthless! is a campy cult favorite musical about Tina Denmark, the greatest song-and-dance sensation to ever hit the third grade.

BODY AWARENESS, October 7-November 6--It's "Body Awareness" week on campus and Phyllis, the organizer, and her partner, Joyce, are hosting a guest artist in their home. Their family is quickly divided as Frank, a photographer famous for his female nude portraits, settles in.

Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID—December 2-31-- Based on the classic fairy tale and film, the musical begins under the sea where Princess Ariel is fascinated by the forbidden land above. After saving Eric from stormy waters, she begins to discover her love for the human prince.


440-941-0458 or

2016 BENEFIT—September 3—A concert dedicated to raising money for the theater.  Hors d’oevres and music from 7-7:50 PM, followed by an 8:00 PM performance by some of Cleveland’s most talented actor-singers!  Limited seating!

SILENCE!  THE MUSICAL—October 21-November 5—A parody of The Silence of the Lambs which has been called, “irreverent, filthy and funny.”  Of course, this show contains adult language and content.

CABARET—December 2-17—Yes, the Kander and Ebb, “Maybe This Time,” musical where your table, Sally Bowles and the Emcee are waiting.

216-241-6000 or go to

TAKE 5—September 23-October 29—Kennedy’s Theatre (entrance off the lobby of the Ohio Theatre)—An evening of five short plays by Lanford Wilson about the concerns of black Americans.

216-241-6000 or go to
7:30 Wednesday-Saturday, 2:30 Saturday and Sunday

ALL THE WAY—September 17-October 9 (Allen Theatre)—A Tony-Award winning drama that is a mirror of our time, the play reflects the power of one person and one vote to transform our country.

SEX WITH STRANGERS—October 22-November 13 (Outcalt Theatre)—Takes on the ever-blurring line between public and private in our digital age as a steamy romance erupts at a remote B&B.

A CHRISTMAS STORY—November 25-December 23 (Allen Theatre)—It’s back yet again-- Ralphie, Randy, the Old Man, the triple-dog-dare, the glowing leg-lamp, the pink-bunny suit, and the bee-bee gun!

  216-631-2727 or go on line to

44 PLAYS FOR 44 PRESIDENTS—October 6-29—Showcases the life and times of the 44 Presidents of the United States, featuring singing, dancing and an all-female cast!

CERLEBRANDO THREE YEARS—October 6-8—The world premiere of an original work and community event as presented by Teatro Publico de Cleveland.

Y-HAVEN THEATRE PROJECT—November 3-6—An original theatre project performed by the men in the Y-Haven traditional housing facility for homeless men recovering from substance abuse and mental health challenges.

LIGHT THE LIGHTS, OL’ MOSES CLE!  (A WILD HOLIDAY ROMP)—November 25-December 18—A vaudeville-inspired evening of holiday folly, mischief and merry-making, CPT style.

THE SANTALAND DIARIES-- December 1-18--(Outcalt Theatre at PlayhouseSquare)—A joint CPT-PHSq production of David Sedaris’ story of Crumpet, a jaded and out-of-work actor who takes a job as a Macy’s Christmas Elf!

convergence continuum or 216-687-0074
Thursday-Saturday @ 8

SELFIES AT THE CLOWN MOTEL—August 26-September 17—The world premiere of Chris Johnson’s play.

LIKE I SAY—October 14-November 5—A structurally bizarre play of stories within stories, weird puppet shows, and an Alpine zombie.

THE KNIFE IS MONEY, THE FORK IS LOVE—December 2-17—Jonathan Wilhelm’s world premiere comedy about Tobias, a young man enamored by radio serials and pulp fiction, who is on a search for the members of a secret society.

216-932-3396 or
check the theatre’s blog for performance times

THE MYSTERY OF LOVE & SEX—September 2-October 2—The Midwest premiere of Bathsheba Doran’s tale about Charlotte and Jonny, life-long friends…she’s white and Jewish, he’s Christian and black.

AN OCTOROON—October 21-November 13—The Obie Award winner for best New American Play explores the 1859 plantation relationship between a handsome white man and a beautiful octoroon.

PETER AND THE STARCATCHER—December 2-30—A return engagement of last year’s critically well-received Peter Pan prequel.

216-321-2930 or
Fridays and Saturdays @ 8, Sundays @ 2

MARGIN OF ERROR (or the Unassailable wisdom of the Mouse and the Scorpion)—September 30-October 23—The regional premiere of Cleveland Heights’ playwright Eric Coble’s tale of Harold Carver, the greatest political strategist the nation has ever known and the night he is stuck at Gate C19 at Cleveland Hopkins Airport amidst four possibly doomed campaigns.

THE BLOODLESS JUNGLE—September 15-October 2 (with a possible week extension)—Terrance Spivey directs former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones’ script about a state senator and rising political star who is running for a pivotal seat in Congress.

THE NIGHT THOREAU SPENT IN JAIL—November 18--December 11—Clevelander Jerome Lawrence and Elyrian Robert E. Lee, authors of INHERIT THE WIND and AUNTIE MAME, tell the tale of Thoreau being jailed for refusing to pay taxes as a protest against a war of aggression in Mexico, his relationship with Emerson, and his romance and friendship with an illiterate cellmate.

GREAT LAKES THEATER or 216-241-6000
Wednesday-Saturday @ 7:30, Saturdays @ 1:30, Sundays @ 3

MY FAIR LADY—September 23-October 29 (Hanna Theatre)—The Tony Award-winning Lerner and Loewe musical, based on George Bernard Shaw’s PYGMALION, about the relationship between a linguistics professor and a Cockney flower girl.  Songs include:  “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” and “The Rain in Spain.”

TWELFTH NIGHT—September 30-October 30 (Hanna Theatre)—Shakespeare’s bewitching comedy about a violent shipwreck off the coast of Illyria, an exotic island, which is turned topsy-turvy by love, false identities and misguided lovers.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL—November 26-December 23 (Ohio Theatre)—It’s back again!  The Dickens’ “bah,” “humbug,” classic tale of Tiny Tim, Scrooge and the true meaning of Christmas.

%Dobama  Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights or 216-393-PLAY
(Play readings at Dobama are free, but reservations are required.  Presentations at the Maltz Museum are fee based)

U.S. V  HOWARD MECHANIC—September 18—(Dobama Theatre, 1430 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights)—A staged reading of Faye Sholiton’s play about Shaker native, Howard Mechanic, who was falsely arrested on charges that turned him into a fugitive for 30 years.

216-795-707)  or

BLUES IN THE NIGHT—September 9-October 2—Sheldon Epps’ Tony nominated compilation of 26 hot and torchy blues tunes is a musical commentary on three women’s relationships with one snake of a guy.

RASHEEDA SPEAKING—November 4-20—A dark comedy of the realities of what happens when two co-workers, one black, the other white, are driven apart by the machinations of their boss.

SISTER ACT—December 2-30—A musical which relates what happens when a lounge singer witnesses her boy friend commit murder and she is relocated to a convent to the frustration of the Mother Superior and the delight of the audience.

440-525-7134 or

THE LAST FIVE YEARS—September 16-October 2— Told almost completely through song, this Jason Robert Brown’s Drama Desk Award-winning musical, is an unconventional glance into love-and-life-compartmentalized.

none-too-fragile theatre
330-671-4563 or

THE WHIPPING MAN—September 23-October 8—The Civil War is over and throughout the South soldiers are returning home.  Caleb DeLeon, a young Jewish Confederate officer finds his family's home in ruins and abandoned, save for two former slaves who wait for the family's return.

ANNAPURNA—November 4-November 19—A dark comedy that examines what happens when two damaged people get caught in the emotional whirlpool of not being able to live with or without each other.

216-241-6000 or go to
See the website for specific dates and times

JERSEY BOYS—September 20-25 (State Theatre)—The musical tale of how four blue-collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop music history.  Hear “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Oh What a Night,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”

FUN HOME—October 2-22 (Connor Palace)—Cleveland is the launch-point for the national tour of the 2015 Tony Award winner for Best Musical.  Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, written while she was a student at Oberlin College, we see her at three different ages as she explores her own lesbianism and her father’s homosexuality.  (Part of the Key Bank Series)

FINDING NEVERLAND—November 1-20 (Connor Palace)—A prequel which tells the story behind J. M. Barrie’s meeting four young brothers and their mother, which gives birth to the make believe adventures of Peter Pan.  (Part of the Key Bank Series)

AVENUE Q—October 27-November 6 (Allen Theatre)—Cleveland State University stages Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx’s musical tale of Princeton, who moves into a shabby New York apartment and discovers a neighborhood filled with unique characters.

DR. SUESS’S HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS:  THE MUSICAL—December 6-11 (Connor Palace)—Visit the whimsical world of Whoville to learn the true meaning of the holiday season.

THE MUSICAL THEATER PROJECT or 216-529-9411 for tickets and information
(productions staged in review format with narration)

THE CRADLE WILL ROCK—September 21 (@ 7:30, Beck Center for the Arts) and September 25 (@ 2 PM, Kent State’s E. Turner Stump Theatre)—Marc Blitzstein’s pro-union musical gets a staged reading directed by Terri Kent featuring Joe Monaghan and members of the Kent State University Musical Theatre program.

CURTAIN UP AT THE COTTON CLUB—October 15 (@ 3 PM, Lakeland Community College) and October 16 (@ 2PM, Stocker Center, Lorain County Community College)—The multi-media concert, which played to sold-out performances last year, is back by popular demand.  Featuring the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, the Joe Hunter Trio, John Morton, Treva Offutt and Evelyn Wright.

ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE:  THE SONGS OF LERNER AND LOEWE—November 20 (@ 2 PM, Hanna Theatre, PlayhouseSquare)—The remarkable music of two men who saw the world in the same way and told the tales of the perfect time, perfect place and perfect love story in MY FAIR LADY, CAMELOT, BRIGADOON and GIGI.