Sunday, July 29, 2007

Verb Ballet--July 29, 2007

Verb Ballets says goodbye to its premiere male dancer, Mark Tomasic

Verb Ballets, in its recent Cain Park concert, again proved why it is heralded as Cleveland’s National Repertory Dance Company. Presenting a program consisting of three company favorites and a world premiere, the corps generally danced with their usual proficiency. Everything was basically positive except for an awareness that this was the last paid concert appearance of Mark Tomasic, the company’s premiere male dancer.

Tomasic will retire and move to San Francisco shortly after Verb’s free concerts on Friday and Saturday, August 24 and 25, at 8 pm, Lincoln Park in Tremont, at Starkweather and West 14th St. (Rain date Sunday, August 26). His presence will be greatly missed since much of Verb’s repertoire centers around his strong dancing. The company now has the unenviable task of trying to replace Tomasic.

The Tremont program, which will include most of the Cain Park offerings include: ‘PLANET SOUP,’ ‘BOLERO,’ and ‘POLKA MADNESS.’

‘PLANET SOUP’ is a flowing, joyous, fast paced piece which is performed to the music of Afro Celt Sound System and Dead Can Dance. It contains a number of movement styles including Indian traditional, Irish reels and African rituals. Artistic Director Hernando Cortez has choreographed the dance to parallel to the ever-changing music. The high point of the program was the segment in which Jason Ignacio did fast paced tinkling, which is an authentic Filipino folk dance in which Ignacio steps between clapping poles.

When Heinz Poll decided to retire from Ohio Ballet, he gave rights to many of his choreographic portfolio to various organizations and dancers. ‘BOLERO,’ one of his most exciting pieces, was given to Xochitl Tejeda de Cerda. Many of those who hold the rights to the pieces grant permission to perform the choreography to various companies. The rights to ‘BOLERO’ have been granted to Verb Ballets. Their production, with restaging by Amy Miller of Groundworks Dance, is a sensual work, consisting of controlled movements, precise turns and flowing hand and arm actions. In one segment, using red capes, the dancers used the material to create a visual image much like a Chinese ribbon dance. The movement of the flowing material created an almost hypnotic effect. The conclusion of the piece was met with hushed silence and then a well deserved tremendous burst of applause.

‘WINGS AND AIRES,’ a duet also choreographed by Heinz Poll, and restaged by Jane Startzman, was presented by permission of Paul Ghiselin. A lovely flowing traditional ballet with modern movements, the number was beautifully danced by Catherine Meredith and Mark Tomasic.

Cleveland is known as the polka capital of America. Cortez choreographed a piece of dance to the live strains of the Johnny Koenig Orchestra based on music written by polka king Frankie Yankovic. The number, which may be forever identified as a “polka ballet,” was more of a nice diversion than a memorable dance. In spite of the fact that the dancing was not as polished as the usual Verb presentations, both the dancers and the audience seemed to have a good time.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


MaryAnn Black and Eric van Baars delight in ‘SWEET CHARITY’ at Porthouse

‘SWEET CHARITY, now on stage at Porthouse Theatre, is noted as a dancer’s show. In order for a production to be successful it must have a star who is not only a prima dancer, but can sing well, act proficiently, and has a personality that sparkles.

There seems to be no question that the venue’s Artistic Director, Terri Kent, who also serves as director of the show, chose the script because she had the very talented MaryAnn Black available. Black, who has become the darling of Porthouse patrons, is the quintessential Charity. She is in the mold of Gwen Verdon, who starred in the original 1966 production, Shirley MacLaine who was in the 1969 movie, and Debbie Allen who was in the show’s 1986 Broadway revival.

‘SWEET CHARITY,’ based on Federico Fellini's screenplay for “NIGHTS OF CABRIA,” has music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and book by Neil Simon.

The plot centers on Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess. She longs to settle down, but the men in her life simply love her, use her and leave her. One steals her purse and throws her in a lake; another, a movie star who is trying to get back at his girlfriend, takes Charity to his apartment, but shoves her under a bed when his girlfriend appears. Finally, she is trapped in an elevator with Oscar, a neurotic who eventually seems to be the man she has waited for. But... (Okay, the plot isn’t great, but I’m not going to ruin it by telling you how the whole thing turns out.)

The show’s excellent score includes “You Should See Yourself,” “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This,” “The Rhythm of Life,” and “Where Am I Going?”

The Porthouse production is very entertaining. Though the script is dated, many of the cast are way too young and lack the necessary sleezy edge to be playing their roles, and the orchestra on opening night kept hitting musical clinkers, Black and Eric van Baars, as Oscar, Charity’s obsessive boy friend, make the negatives fade away.

Though she has matured to the place where doing all that singing and dancing can be draining, Black comes through once again. She lights up the stage. “I’m a Brass Band” and “If My Friends Could See Me Now” are definite show stoppers. The segment in which she gets caught in an elevator with van Baars has to be one of the most delightful scenes seen on a local stage. It’s worth going to the show just to see this ten minute interlude.

van Baars is excellent. He sings and acts well and shows comedic talent that is endearing.

Jim Weaver does a fine vocal job on “Too Many Tomorrows,” and Sandra Emerick and Nicole Perrone add some nice bits as two of Charity’s fellow hostesses.

An added attraction is a cameo appearance by my former student, Roe Green, the patron saint of many of this area’s theatres. This is her first ever on-stage appearance. The casting is type perfect! (You’ll have to see the show in order to understand this reference.)

Some of the show is too slowly paced. “Big Spender,’ usually a dynamic music number dragged. “The Rhythm of Life” was rather blah.

John Crawford’s choreography is generally creative (no, not of the level of Bob Fosse’s original stagings). Unfortunately Crawford was blessed with a dance corps, with the exception of Black, which shows little real dancing talent. This blunts the overall effect.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘SWEET CHARITY’ is the kind of show that, with a good production, is an audience pleaser. From the reaction of the opening night crowd, audiences will enjoy the Porthouse production.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Inlet Dance 7/07

Inlet delights audience at Cain Park

Bill Wade, founder and artistic director of the six year-old Inlet Dance Theatre must have been a happy man after the company’s recent (July 26) Cain Park performance. In spite of a rainy night, the Evans Theatre was packed.

Contrary to many local dance concerts, the enthusiastic audience was mostly young and racially integrated. They were treated to an eclectic program which featured not only Inlet’s company, apprentices and trainees, but students from the Summer Dance Intensive.

Inlet’s mission is “to create and perform innovative dance and movement theatre at a high level of artistry, speak creatively about human life issues, and bring about personal development in the lives of individuals through training and mentoring.”

Wade, a master teacher and motivator, believes that dance is a “vehicle for personal transformation.” With this in mind, he brings in 12 to 20 year-old students from all over the country to study with the company. They learn release work (The Erick Hawkins technique which is the basis for Inlet’s choreography), nontraditional partnering, the collaborative creative process (invented by Pilobolus Dance theatre), hip-hop and improvisation. The six-and-a-half week program culminates in the yearly Cain Park free program.

As has been the case in the past, both the students and the Inlet “regulars” displayed creativity, discipline and enthusiasm.

Though every section was interesting, highlights of the ten-segment program were: “For Margaret and Dan,” “RubeWreck,” “Performance Improvisation,” “A Close Shave,” and “BALListic.”

“For Margaret and Dan,” a duet piece, with music by Lifehouse, was performed as part of company member Margaret Ludlow’s wedding ceremony a week before the Cain Park concert, as a present from the company. The public debut was beautifully danced by Mikaela Clark and Justin Stentz (who I consider to be the area’s best young male dancer).

‘RubeWreck,” which was danced to music by Animusic and the Beastie Boys, featured the twelve males of the dance intensive and the company. A total delight, it portrayed a young video gamer, creating a vision complete with human Rube Goldberg contraption-like machines which morphed into the concept of the new film “Transformers.” The action brought many laughs from the audience.

“Performance Improvisation” demonstrated the ability of the dance intensive students to ad lib to music they had not previously heard. As a starting point, the corps was given two distinct gestures to use throughout the piece. The ability of the youngsters to stay in character while creating various stories and images was impressive.

A company staple, “A Close Shave, inspired by Patrick Morley’s “Man in the Mirror” featuring Joshua Brown and Justin Stentz, “centers on a man confronting and wrestling with the proverbial man staring back at him every morning when he shaves.” Brown and Stentz displayed both superb strength and consistency while performing the audience pleasing gymnastic piece.

“BALListic,” another staple in Inlet’s repertory, uses 1960’s pop art to probe into what happens when a group of dancers are given a number of huge red physio balls and let loose. With contemporary music by the very talented Ryan Lott (who has written for many local dance companies), the dancers slid over, cavorted under, and bounced around the stage with precision and energy. The Pilobolus-like piece was a fitting closing number for a well performed and creatively programmed evening of dance.

Capsule judgement: Bill Wade and his Inlet Dance Theatre are a unique company. They go outside the square by incorporating previously uninitiated dancers into company performances with positive results for both students and audience.
Side note: The company raises one-quarter of its funding from individual donor support. It deserves our support. Send a tax-deductible contribution to Inlet Dance Theatre, 3921 Mayfield Road, Suite 6, Cleveland Heights, OH 44121 so they can continue to be a community asset!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Spotlight on Matthew Sprosty

Matthew Sprosty, Westlake resident and successful playwright

Matthew Sprosty is a class of 2000 graduate of Westlake High School. Matthew Sprosty is a successful playwright. His play, ‘MALICIOUS BUNNY,’ is now being staged by Fourth Wall Productions.

Sprosty, who is the son of Lucille Parsell and Allan Sprosty, both of Westlake, graduated from Ohio University in 2004. He was active in the OU Playwriting Program, one of the few curriculums in the state centering on theatre script preparation.

In speaking of his high school days, Matthew credits Mr. Hoty, his television teacher for getting him interested in the media and Mrs. Sptizer for getting him involved in theatre.

Matthew wrote eight plays he wrote while in college. He also penned nine screen plays. Since college he has written three more. ‘MALICIOUS BUNNY, which was started in August of ’06, had a workshop in Columbus and has been written and rewritten based on input of friends and the workshop audience. By last count, this version is the ninth draft.

Sprosty states, “In my writing I try and figure out things I don’t understand.” In the case of ‘MALICIOUS BUNNY,’ he probes into the world of divorce. His own parents divorced when he was five. In preparing the script he spent a lot of time discussing her perceptions of the divorce with his sister Jaki, who is four years older than Matthew. He said, “Some of her revelations were chilling.” Though not about his parent’s divorce, he incorporated Jaki’s voice into the play.

Any one who gets the opportunity to view the production will quickly discover that Sprosty has a weird and ironic sense of humor. The play is a dark comedy/mystery. He got the idea for Bunny from experiences he had with his previous girlfriend, his relationship with her parents (“they hated me”), and the hidden desires he felt about her and them.

Fourth Wall Productions is just completing its first year of activity. Made up mainly of Ohio University theatre graduates, the company members, who are mainly from the Cleveland area, thought that there was a need on the North Coast for a company which performed new works by new writers. They are interested in attracting a non theatre-going crowd. This would be a younger and “hipper” audience than those who attend traditional theatres. They may have something as their surveying so far indicates that over 5% of Fourth Wall attendees have never before seen a play.

Why has he remained in Cleveland, while the “hot” theatre scenes are elsewhere? “I love Cleveland. I love the theatre here. I hate when I go to Chicago, or New York, that my friends laugh, and ask, ‘Why Cleveland?’” Matthew’s answer, “It’s because I believe Cleveland has huge potential. We raise great talent. We have the most welcoming situations for emerging artists. We just have to find a way to keep them here.” He thinks that Fourth Wall, through bridges they can build with other theatres in and out of the city, will help in his crusade. Fourth Wall has already built bridges with the Cleveland Play House, Bang and Clatter and Kalliope, with hopes for more.

As they enter their fourth year, Fourth Wall Productions is looking forward to expanding their repertoire and building a bigger audience base. Their season next year will include another Sprosty script.

As for Sprosty, who is not only the company’s resident playwright, but also serves on the Board of Directors and as Treasurer of the company, has been approached by other theatres to produce his plays. He continues to write and he’s hopping that he doesn’t get any evil thoughts about his present girl friend and her family that will be the basis for a future play. But, on the other hand . . ..

(To read a review of ‘MALICIOUS BUNNY’ go on-line to:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Review of the reviewer (Fourth Wall Productions)

A New York theatre company read your review and asked to read Malicious Bunny by Matthew A. Sprosty.

Thanks for your help in Fourth Wall's crusade in turning eyes to Cleveland.

Fourth Wall Productions

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Delightful black comedy/mystery at Fourth Wall Productions

On the way out of Kalliope Theatre, where Fourth Wall Productions is staging their newest offering, ‘MALICIOUS BUNNY,’ I said to the script’s author, Matthew Sprosty, “You have a twisted mind! A brilliant, but twisted mind!” He responded with an innocent grin which split his cherubic blushing face.

Fourth Wall Productions is just completing its first year of activity. Made up mainly of Ohio University theatre graduates, the company, who are mainly from the Cleveland area, thought that there was a need on the North Coast for a company which performed new works by new writers. They are mainly looking at scripts from OU’s Playwriting Program. If ‘MALICIOUS BUNNY’ is any example of the quality of the scripts and production values that we will be seeing in the future, Fourth Wall is a welcome addition to the Cleveland scene.

Sprosty has a wonderful way of leading his audience down one path, doing a quick detour, allowing the viewers to find themselves guessing at what will happen next. In ‘MALICIOUS BUNNY’ he has given us a black comedy/mystery that is cleverly conceived.

The author contends that the play is not autobiographical, but did germinate from experiences with his last girl friend and her parents. He emphatically insists, and states in the program that it was his LAST girl friend, not this one. (Okay, Matthew, now that it’s officially in public print, hopefully this saves you from your present main squeeze’s parents not dragging her out of the theatre and forbidding her from seeing you when they attend next Saturday’s performance.)

The plot? A couple of twenty-four year olds have hit the one-and-a-half year point in their marriage. She (Angela) is an artist, who is on a sabbatical from creating. He is an engineering graduate who is working as a janitor because she wants to live in Cleveland, near her parents, and he can’t find a job in his field on the north coast. She is bored and manipulates her somewhat naive husband (Jonathon) to do her beckoning. She may be named Angela, but she is no angel! Her list? Kill her parents, get a million dollars, and buy the penthouse condo in their building. To go any further with the plot would blow the whole premise. It’s enough to say there are enough twists and turns to make the surprise ending a head shaker and allow you to leave with a smile on your face!

Director Rebecca Cole has paced the play well. She is aided by a cast that understands the plot and their characters. (Having the playwright on-hand to work with during the production and explain his concepts obviously turned out to be a great aid in the staging process.)

Nate Bigger, a blond with the look of total innocence and a voice to match, is wonderful as Jonathon. He gets totally wrapped in the role and takes us right along. Though Stephanie Ford’s Angela could have sounded a little more vocally manipulative, she is quite believable as the spoiled little rich girl who gets everything she wants (or, so it seems). Dash Combs is both properly delightful and menacing as Jonathon’s buddy, Greg. Steven Hoffman and Kat Gallagher do well as Angela’s parents, but are much better as the detectives. (Hmm....and why are there detectives? I’m not going to tell!)

Capsule judgement: It’s been a while since I’ve had such a good time at a theatre production. The twists, turns and “oh my goodness moments” in ‘MALICIOUS BUNNY’ keep the audience laughing and thinking of what’s going to happen next. Bravo!


‘SPAWN OF THE PETROLSEXUALS’ is not a pleasant experience for this reviewer

Christopher Johnston, the playwright of ‘A SPAWN OF PETROLSEXUALS,’ which is now being staged at convergence-continuum theatre, states in the playbill, “I won’t try to articulate my anger and frustration over an America I no longer know, nor our unconscionable lack of concern for consequences.”

Yes, Johnston is angry and frustrated. So am I.

Both Johnston and I are angry that America has lost its course under the corrupt Bush administration and the business overlords as well as the the over-consumption of resources and the breakdown of ethical values. Yes, unless there are some drastic changes we are on a sliding board to becoming a second-rate nation.

Beyond that, my frustration centers on the playwright and convergence’s artistic director.

I believe that theatre should be purposeful and meaningful. The author has an obligation to the audience to present a message in a way that they can reasonably understand the author’s intent. In my opinion, Johnston does not write a play that clearly states the problem or shows a way out of the void. Instead, he writes a script filled with unnecessary abstract imagery, abstract situations, and the use of profanity for the sake of using profanity. He creates abstraction for affect, rather than effect. He also creates happenings that gross out the audience for no reason (eg., one cast member realistically urinating into the mouths of two others in order to “rehydrate” them). During this scene, the person sitting next to me moaned, “That’s disgusting.” It was! Gross can be an effective tool, but what was the act’s real purpose other to gross out the viewer and show how avant garde the author was?

The question that Artistic Director Clyde Simon has to answer is, “why did you choose to stage this script?” Yes, you wanted to do an original play, and the author wrote this specifically for your theatre, but that does not mean you have to do a script of questionable quality. On the way into the theatre, one of the patrons said to Simon, “Am I going to understand this one?” Obvioulsy, the patron has been to convergence in the past and been confounded by Simon’s “unique” selection of scripts. I didn’t get a chance to ask the man after the production about his understanding, but the odds are he was as lost as most of us.

Part way through the first act a character in ‘A SPAWN OF PETROLSEXUALS’ says, “Who’s listening to this crap?” I almost yelled out, “Not me...I turned off the whole proceedings long ago,” and from observing those around me, most of the audience had joined me. The “crap” statement was followed by another of the author’s lines, “I thought and I thought and there is nothing worth saying.” My first reaction upon hearing the line was, “So, Mr. Johnson, why did you write the script?” And, the second was, “Why am I sitting here enduring this?” So, for only the second time in all my theatrical experiences, I left at intermission.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: I have sat through many, many theatrical productions. I would have to rank seeing ‘A SPAN OF PETROLSEXUALS’ at convergence as one of the most uncomfortable experiences of them all.
Side note on this review: I don’t like writing critiques that discourage people from attending the theatre, but I would be disingenuous to my readers if I was less than honest about this script and production.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Shaw Festival--2007 review #3

AND STILL MORE ON THE SHAW FESTIVAL--play reviews and places to stay, eat and tour

Considered by many theatre experts as the best repertory company in North America, the G. B. Shaw Festival, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, a short distance from Niagara Falls, offers an excellent season of productions. In addition there are some excellent restaurants and sites to visit.

In my other columns in this series I reviewed ‘SUMMER AND SMOKE, ’‘HOTEL PECCADILLO,’ ‘MACK AND MABEL,’ ‘THE PHILANDERER,’ ‘LILLIES’ and ‘THE CIRCLE.’ If you missed those reviews go online to

The two other plays I saw were: ‘THE CASSILIS ENGAGEMENT’ and ‘THE KILTARTAN COMEDIES.’


Sr. John Hankin, one of the most admired comic writers of the Edwardian era, is generally unknown to present day theatre-goers in spite of the fact that his good friend, G. B. Shaw, once referred to him as “the Mephistopheles of the new comedy.”

Part of the reason for Hankins’ anonymity was his suicide at age 40, as an escape from a life of ill health. It is ironic that his life came to its final curtain, as his plays often do, without a happy ending.

His two major plays were ‘THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL’, subtitled “A Comedy for Fathers’ and ‘THE CASSILIS ENGAGEMENT,’ referred to as “A Comedy for Mothers,” which is now in production at the Shaw.

Hankins’ plays, though they are all comedies, are governed by “aesthetics of negativity.” The plots lead toward the dissolution of familial ties and love relationships, toward closure marked by disharmony.

The plot of ‘THE CASSILIS ENGAGEMENT’ centers on three uniquely different mothers. Though the story appears to be a conventional comedy of manners, it proves to be nothing of the kind. The wealthy Mrs. Cassilis dotes on Geoffrey, her unmarried son. The very uptight Countess of Remenham has always assumed that Geoffrey was going to marry her daughter. Foiling the plans, Geoffrey has become engaged to Ethel, a cockney, lower class and crass city girl. Ethel and her mother, Mrs. Borridge, are invited to visit Mrs. Cassilis’s house. What plays out are a series of events which move the plot through one hilarious conflict after another, and toward an obvious ending.

The Shaw production, under the direction of Christopher Newton, turns out to be out and-out fun. Much of this centers on the hysterical performance by Mary Haney as the uneducated and blunt Mrs. Borridge. Her exact opposite, Mrs. Cassilis, played by Goldie Semple, is cool, collected and bright. Semple builds a clear character who manipulates all around her in a passive aggressive manner. David Leyshon (Geoffrey) plays the perfect pawn, caught between mother and fiancee. Donna Belleville so perfectly portrays the uptight Countess of Remenham that, after-a-while, the audience started to groan each time she opened her mouth to speak.

Played in three-quarter round in the intimate Court House Theatre, the production is well-paced and draws a healthy round of laughs.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘THE CASSILIS ENGAGEMENT’ is a fun walk along the path of humor. You won’t learn anything much, but you will have a good time watching a master of language and plot development weave his web.

Lady Augusta Gregory was an Anglo-Irish dramatist and folklorist. She dedicated much of her life to collecting Gaelic folklore and keeping the Irish language viable. She published a series of books related to Kiltartan history. She also wrote plays of questionable value. As a fellow Irish writer stated, “"the presentation of her plays nearly ruined the Abbey [the national Irish theatre venue]".

Shaw has chosen to present two of Lady Gregory’s short writings. The first part of the program is ‘THE RISING OF THE MOON.’ It is based on a ballad of the same name by famous Irish balladeer John Keegan. The song remains popular and the tune widely recognized in Ireland today as a protest song against British control.

The ballad-opera tells the tale of a rogue who tries to escape from a town after committing some crimes, but is caught by a policeman. Through Irish charm and guile, he talks his way to freedom. Gregory intended the message as an attack on England in Ireland’s fight for freedom, though this is not overly evident in the play’s actions, but a careful listen to the words of the song reveal her purposes.

‘SPREADING THE NEWS’ is a delightful bit of fluff which illustrates how rumors are created and spread. This is relevant in spotlighting the Irish as great story tellers and exaggerators. What starts as an act of kindness, the return of a pitch fork that has been left behind, is manipulated into a story of death, infidelity and a potential immigration to America. Mary Haney is riotous as an apple saleswoman who is the hub of the wheel of the rumor. This is fun, fun fun!

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The hour-long production of ‘THE KILTARTAN COMEDIES’ is worth going to just to see Mary Haney in ‘SPREADING THE NEWS’ and relive your own experience with how rumors are spread. The first show, ‘THE RISING OF THE MOON,’ will probably be of less interest.


Besides the plays themselves, the Festival includes a reading series, coffee concerts, seminars, backstage tours and pre-show chats.

The city has a golf course, speed boat rides and carriages that travel the streets. Just wandering the small town and looking at the beautiful flowers and gardens can be a wonderful experience.

There are some excellent places to eat including my favorite, The Queenston Heights Restaurant ( It is located in a park just over the US Canadian border. The facility has a breathtaking view of the Niagara River gorge. A new addition to my favorites list is the Restaurant at the Niagara Culinary Institute, located about twenty minutes away from the theatres. Here, student chefs and restaurant management majors hone their skills. The food is excellent and the venue attractive. Remember, these are students, professional wanna’ be’s, and the service may be a little erratic.

Tired of waiting for a casino in Cleveland? For those so-inclined, Niagara Falls, which is near Niagara-on-the-Lake, has two casino resorts. There is also a large outlet store complex for the bargain shopper. And, of course, not to be overlooked are the attractions connected to the magnificent falls.

For theatre information, a brochure, lodging suggestions or tickets call 800-511-7429 or go on-line to Ask about packages that include lodging, meals and tickets. Be aware that the festival offers day-of-the-show rush tickets and senior matinee prices.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Shaw Festival 2007/review #2

‘More on the 2007 Shaw Festival--’THE PHILANDERER,’ ‘LILLIES’ and ‘THE CIRCLE’

Each year The Shaw Festival season runs from April through October. A visit to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, about four hours by car from Cleveland, allows those living on the north coast to see up to ten productions, plus noon-time offerings and special events.

In my previous column I reviewed ‘SUMMER AND SMOKE, ’‘HOTEL PECCADILLO’ and ‘MACK AND MABEL.’ If you missed those reviews go online to


In the late 1800s, the liberal Norwegian, Henrik Ibsen began to pen plays about the “new woman,” an independent female, who did not view the man-woman relationship structure as the man being in charge with the female subservient. G. B. Shaw took up the same cry, and along with his commentaries on religion, morality, the educational system and politics, pushed the women’s liberation cause beyond that of Ibsen.

Shaw’s ‘THE PHILANDERER’ is a typical Shavian comedy. It is long on laughs and has many social messages. It centers on the concept of what it means to be a man or a woman. Because the battle between the sexes continues to this very day, the play remains relevant.

‘THE PHILANDERER,’ which was written in 1893, was only Shaw’s second play. Years later, the more mature Shaw decided that the play needed a more complete ending, and added a fourth act. The Festival is presenting both the three and the four-act versions this season. Having only viewed the three-act presentation I cannot comment on the fourth segment. A friend who saw the quad production commented that the last act was more in what we now consider the Shaw later-years style and more completely wrapped up his message.

The play takes us into the Ibsen Club where supposedly modern men and women strive to live social lives of equality, or at least pretend to do so. The action centers on Leonard Charteris, a man committed to remaining unattached. He is a philanderer who believes that only conventional people marry. He believes in "charming friendships." But, when he meets Julia Craven, a self-described "new woman" who belongs only to herself and is the property of no man, he finds he may have met his match, and maybe his mate.

In one of the play’s most delightful scenes, which skewers the medical profession, Peter Krantz, as the aptly named Dr. Paramour, becomes depressed when he learns that a new liver disease he thinks he's discovered doesn't exist. Never mind that the news means his patient is perfectly healthy. It is just one of those Shaw inspired moments inserted to zap a group or cause whose actions he finds ridiculous.

The festival’s production is on target. Ben Carlson is a delightful cad as philandering Charteris. Nicole Underhay (Julia Craven) effectively develops the womanly-woman. Nicola Correia-Damuge (Sylvia Craven) is clearly the manly-woman, who foreshadows the women who will come forth in the next generation’s liberation movement.

Director Alisa Palmer has paced the show well and pointed the comedy lines. Judith Bowden’s set is beautiful and practically designed.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: The Shaw Festival does Shaw like no other acting company. Their production of ‘THE PHILANDERER’ is a delight while making the author’s points with fine acting and technical finesse. This is a “sure see.” I’m sorry I didn’t experience the longer version as it would have elongated the wonderful experience.


In 1990, Jackie Maxwell, the Shaw’s Artistic Director, staged the first reading of a new translation of ‘LILLIES,’ a play originally written in French by Michel Marc Bouchard. The script went on to be produced across Canada and in Europe. Maxwell, decided to include ‘LILLIES’ in the 2007 Shaw season.

‘LILLIES’ is a mystery of hidden desires, the living out of fantasies, and the consequences of forbidden love. Set at a Catholic boys school in a small town in Canada, a secret love affair between two of the male students, a closeted jealous student, a gay drama teacher who pushes against school’s homophobic regulations, and a murder, are all part of the action.

The staged reading, directed by Maxwell, was cast with all males, though three of the characters are women. The single gender casting adds an interesting dimension to the proceedings.

The presentation was highlighted by fine performances by Kawa Ada as one participant in the love triangle, Blair Williams as his mother, Guy Bannerman as a priest and Ric Reid as an adult who, as a youth, was a member of the love triangle.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Unfortunately for festival-goers, if they didn’t see the performance on July 13 they will not be able to see it. That’s really sad, as I found ‘LILLIES’ to be the most interesting scripts of this season and even in a staged reading format, for which the cast only had three rehearsals, the tension and idea development was excellent. It can only be hoped that Maxwell considers producing a staged version at a future Festival. (On a local note, I would encourage one of our more adventurous theatres to consider a staged presentation of the script.)


Somerset Maugham, the author of ‘THE CIRCLE,’ is noted for writing plays concerning the British upper-classes and marriage. He believed that, “in order to understand a society one should study its marriage laws and the arrangements between the sexes.” Like Shaw, Maugham used humor and witticism to develop his philosophical points of view.

Maugham questions the 1920 ‘s belief that “men rule the world, wield the political and social instruments of power, and that their women are bred to keep their place while being quietly loving and supportive and provide the country’s great houses with future heirs.”

‘THE CIRCLE,’ which is considered by dramatists as Maugham’s finest play, has an interesting structure which centers on two love triangles, one relationship in the past, one in the present. The writer is a master at conversational style and the turning of a word to make an effect. His abilities are displayed well in this witty script.

Interestingly, the final curtain of 1920’s productions of the play were generally met with hisses and boos as the audience was both shocked and repelled by the unexpected conclusion. Modern day audiences, considering the high rate of infidelity and divorce, are less likely to respond negatively.

The story centers on the three-year marriage of Arnold and Elizabeth. He is a wealthy member of the British parliament. Arnold’s father and mother were divorced when he was young. The mother ran off with the father’s best friend, who, if not for the scandal, might have been elected Prime Minister. Elizabeth invites her lover (Edward Lutton), Arnold’s mother, the mother’s current husband, and a female family friend for a visit. Of course, the reason for the visit is to create havoc. The results, as can be assumed, turn out to be a showcase for questioning the need for marriage, what is the basis for love, and challenges whether love is an important ingredient in a successful marriage.

Director Neil Munro had a clear concept, and accomplished it with proper pacing and imbuing his cast with the necessary attitudes and character development. He has even incorporated clever set and props changes as part of the production.

The cast is excellent. David Jansen is properly uptight as Arnold. Beautiful and talented Moya O’Connell is delightful as conflicted Elizabeth. Gray Powell’s Edward Lutton is appropriately frustrated by Elizabeth’s decisions and the alteration of her choices regarding him. Wendy Thatcher is a hoot as Arnold’s estranged mother. Michael Ball is wonderful as the curmudgeon/puffed-up second husband of Lady Kitty. David Shurmann is attitude perfect as Arnold’s father.

The production is performed in a beautifully appointed drawing room set, in the intimate Royal George Theatre.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: By today’s standards, ‘THE CIRCLE’ is a piece of fluff. In the 20s, when it was first staged, Maugham’s script confronted real issues and gave a flash of what was going to happen during the era of women’s liberation. The fine production is worth seeing, if for no other reason than to get a glimpse of early 20th century attitudes about men, women and marriage.

Shaw Festival 2007/review #1

SHAW FESTIVAL offerings good, but not up to last year’s superb productions

Each year the Shaw Festival selects a central theme for their play selections. The 2007 season of the best repertory company in Northern America is centered on “matters of the heart.” The plays being performed all deal with love, marriage, desertion, relational conflict, shifting allegiances and eccentric couplings.

The Shaw season runs from April through October an encompasses ten major productions plus a noon-time series and many special events.

On a recent four-day visit to the Shaw, which is located in what is undoubtedly the prettiest little city in Canada, I saw 7 shows and a reading. Here are reviews of some of the selections. Additional reviews will be presented in a future column.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT OF SEASON: Last year production after production at the Shaw were excellent. This season, though almost every show was quite acceptable and worth seeing, there were no master strokes. Part of this may have been that seeing show after show which were all variations of each other got a little tedious. Seeing one or two shows in a visit may relieve some of that feeling of “I’ve seen this before.”


Tennessee Williams is noted for his exploration of spiritual, sexual and psychological themes. His plays, many of which have biographical content, reflect southern US morality and customs. Many of his leading women find themselves in societal settings in which they misunderstand their surroundings and are misunderstood by those around them (think Blanche in ‘STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’ and Amanda in ‘GLASS MENAGERIE.’) This theme parallels that of the writer’s mother being forced to leave her home in the deep south and move to the more northern Missouri. She never adjusted to that setting.

Williams’ plays may be grouped as tour-de-force scripts, such as ‘CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF,’ and the aformentioned Streetcar and Menagerie, and lesser successes such as “A ROSE TATOO,’ ‘CAMINO ROYALE,’ and ‘NIGHT OF THE IGUANA.’ ‘SUMMER AND SMOKE’ is one of his less performed and more moderate writings.

‘SUMMER AND SMOKE’ which is set in Glorious Hill, Mississippi, centers on Alma Winemiller, a repressed spinster, who, like smoke, is smoldering with inner fire and her long-time felt love toward Dr. John Buchanan, the boy next door who grew up to be a man of the world, full of youthful bloom and sexual heat (the summer).

The premise of whether a person has a soul and, if so, what are the ethical values inherent in that acceptance. This is a reworking of themes Williams previously explored. There's the refined but fading Southern belle, the crude lothario who strains her principles, a struggle between love and lust, and characters dealing with unrealized expectations. In this writing, however, Williams has his heroine make a complete turn about with no obvious motivation for the change.

In spite of the play’s problematic ending, the Shaw production works well. Director Neil Munro has paced the play properly and has developed clear characterizations within the writer’s limits.

Nicole Underhay is properly conflicted as Alma. She textures the role with moods that swing between euphoria and depression. Though quite good, Guy Bannerman is not quite as effective as the young Dr. Buchanan. At times, his characterization was unbelievable. There were some excellent supporting performances.

The original incidental music aids in mood development. On the other hand, set designer Peter Hartwell’s set doesn’t work. It fails to show the duality that is needed and, after a while, the constant need to move curtain screens becomes tedious.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Though not one of Williams’ great plays, ‘SUMMER AND SMOKE’ carries many of the playwright’s basic themes. The Shaw production is good and worth seeing.

Mack Sennett is long remembered by those who are fans of silent movies. He did the kind of comedy shtick that gave the world the Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle and Mabel Norman, the comedy queen of non-talkies. Norman was also Sennett’s on-and-off lover. The duo is the subject of the musical, ‘MACK AND MABEL.’

‘MACK AND MABEL,’ has words and music by Jerry Herman (‘MAME,’ ‘HELLO DOLLY!’ and ‘LE CAGE AUX FOLLES) and book by Michael Stewart (‘BYE, BYE BIRDIE’ and ‘GRAND TOUR’). The script being presented by the festival is the work of Francine Pascal (GEORGE M!’), who revised the original offering for a London production which was better received than its US staging.

The show opened in New York in 1974 to generally poor reviews. The production starred Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston, and despite eight Tony nominations, ran only sixty-six performances. (Side note: I saw one of those Broadway performances and agreed with reviewers’ comments regarding the melodramatic writing and lack of memorable musical score.)

The rags-to-riches story line centers on the hyperactive Sennett, his rise to fame producing short silent films, and his tumultuous love affair with Norman. Sennett was a genius of slapstick comedy and could gage what audience’s wanted. The duo met when they were bit players on the Biograph film lot, but in the musical he discovers her when, as a delicatessen delivery girl, she walks onto a movie set in New York and spontaneously convulses the production team. As in real life, the duo went on to be the comedy’s king and queen of silent flicks, but had a chaotic personal life. The play’s melodramatic conclusion has the two apparently living happily ever-after following one of their many reconciliations. In reality, Norman died at 38 of tuberculosis after being involved in a scandal and becoming a drug and alcohol addict.

The Shaw production, under the direction of Molly Smith and choreographer Baayork Lee, is uneven. Part of the problem is the script, but Smith fails to take advantage of some excellent opportunities to excite the audience. Two of the “show stopper” musical numbers were flat. “Make the World Laugh” is supposed to be the audience’s opportunity to see all of Senett’s character’s in action. Though the music was lively, the pacing was slow and the visuals not dynamic. “Hit Them On the Head,” another musical number that lent itself to all-out farce, was also lacking in needed frenetic pacing and lacked creativity. On the other hand, aided by a strong dancing corps, “Tap Your Troubles Away” displayed what the production numbers should be.

Glynis Ranney was excellent at Mabel. She textured the portrayal with just the right elements of comedy and pathos. Benedict Campbell has an excellent singing voice. Unfortunately, at times he overacted the role of Mack, making dramatic scenes melodramatic. The rest of the cast was excellent.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: In spite of its somewhat weak script and production flaws, as evidenced by the response the day I saw the production, audiences will like the Shaw production of ‘MACK AND MABEL.’


George Feydeau, the author of ‘HOTEL PECCADILLO,’ is noted for writing hilarious farces about the war within people concerning their sexual desires and their ability to act on those desires. His style is so unique that the viewing of one of his plays is referred to by critics as a trip to “Feydeauville.”

‘HOTEL PECCADILLO’ is typical Feydeau. It is filled with scheming, discovery of attempted amorous affairs and the acting out of sexual dreams. It, in some ways, parallels the old joke concerning Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the 10 commandments. Moses says, “I have good news and bad news. I got HIM down to ten, but Adultery stays.” It is the playing around with a desire for, but the avoidance of getting caught in Adultery, that motivates Feydeau’s writing.

The plot of ‘HOTEL PECCADILLO’ is thin, in fact, almost irrelevant. It is the characters and their actions that carry us into the laughter. For what it’s worth, here is the premise: A psychiatrist wants to bed a patient’s wife. The patient is frustrated in his marriage and wants to bed someone other than his wife. A pilot friend of the psychiatrist brings three beautiful Russian stewardesses and their macho female chaperon for a tryst. The psychiatrist’s assistant is sexually interested in her boss’s teenage son. And, it goes on and on. (See why I said the plot was irrelevant?) This is pure silliness for sillness’s sake. After watching a Feydeau play you gain an understanding of why Jerry Lewis is so popular in France.

Feydeau, as is typical of many writers of farces, depends on sets of double doors by which the adulterers, or those desiring to be adulters, duck in an out. The script requires fast pacing, quick costume changes and the viewer’s willingness to go along with the ridiculousness. He does not write plays to be enjoyed by the uptight, the moralist, the religious fundamentalist or those looking for a serious message.

The Shaw production is fun, but uneven. The first and fourth scenes, those that take place in the psychiatrist’s office are hilarious. The word plays, the farcical interactions, the exaggeration is well done. Unfortunately, the visual farce in scenes two and three, those in the hotel setting with the multiple doors, is sluggish. In order for visual slapstick to work, there must be total abandonment. Director and adaptor Morris Panych is better with the word play segments than with the slapstick.

Set designer Ken MacDonald has fashioned a set centering on perspective of large to small. The front of the triangle set has full-sized doors, the back doors are half-sized. If properly used, the set could add to the fun. But, as is, the pacing is slowed down by the door configurations.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you just want to have a good time and leave your troubles and reality at the stage door, ‘HOTEL PECADILLO’ is your kind of thing. It is too bad, however, that the director wasn’t able to correctly pace the farcical middle of the play more effectively so the full effect of Feydeau’s concept is evident. As is, it’s like a sandwich made of fine bread with a tasteless middle layer.

In the next column I’ll review ‘THE PHILANDERER,’ ‘LILLIES,’ ‘THE KILTARTAN COMEDIES,’ ‘THE CIRCLE’ and some information about other attractions in OR NER Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Side note: Be aware that the days of low cost due to the high value of the American dollar against the Canadian dollar, are over. The exchange rate is almost equal, dollar for dollar. Also, the original intent to check passports at the US-Canadian border has postponed for a while. All you need to get to our neighbors to the north and back again is some official form of identification (e.g., driver’s license or government id card).

Monday, July 09, 2007

Jekyll & Hyde

‘JEKYLL AND HYDE’ a must see at BECK! Yes, a MUST SEE!

Beck Center’s ‘JEKYLL AND HYDE’ is a must see!

‘JEKYLL & HYDE’ is a musical based on the novel, “THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE” by Robert Louis Stevenson. The show opens with Jekyll saying, "In each of us there are two natures. If this primitive duality of man: good and evil, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that is unbearable. It is the curse of mankind that these polar twins should be constantly struggling."

The play centers on Dr. Jekyll’s experimentation with a drug that he perceives will free patients from mental anguish. Since he cannot get funding for human subjects to experiment upon, he tests the potion on himself, thus releasing his evil alter ego.

The original novel’s vivid portrayal of the psychopathology of a split personality is credited with allowing mainstream society to identify the phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" as bipolar behavior.

The musical’s original script conception was by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn. The music was composed by Wildhorn and the lyrics written by Leslie Bricusse (‘STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF’).

The show went through numerous rewrites in order to try to develop a clear voice. Many songs were added and dropped from the original concept and the story adjusted as the show went through many staged readings, recordings and two national tours before its Big Apple appearance. Eventually, ‘JEKYLL AND HYDE’ opened on Broadway in April, 1997. It ran for 1,543 performances, thanks to self-dubbed “Jekkies,” who saw the show over-and-over and created an online discussion group and role-playing games based on the show in order to counter numerous negative reviews.

One such review stated, “the show was overwhelmed by a muddy story adaptation, transparent lyrics and a forgettable, old-fashioned score. Lacking a point of view, or even accessible characters, the show is cold. When Hyde goes on a killing spree in a musical montage the number becomes bizarrely comic. In a tale of good and evil, there’s a problem when murders elicit a giggle.” In a year of virtually no competition, ‘JEKYLL & HYDE’ was not even nominated in the best musical category for a Tony Award.

With that background, how can I enthusiastically state that the Beck production is a must see? The answer: Director Scott Spence, choreographer Martin Cespedes, musical director Larry Goodpaster and a marvelous cast, have taken a problematic play and made it into a gem. An absolute gem!

Spence has a clear vision for the show. He envelops his audience in the power of Stevenson’s original concept. He is blessed with the talented Dan Folino portraying both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Folino gives a tour-de-force performance. His singing is enthralling, his acting compelling. The portrayal is perfectly nuanced. especially his consistent obsessive compulsive mannerisms, which do much to separate Jekyll from Hyde. His vocal presentations of “I Need to Know,” “Take Me As I Am” (sung with Maggie Stahl), ”This is the Moment,” and “Confrontation” were brilliant.

Furthering the excitement of the show are the glorious voices of Maggie Stahl (Lisa Carew, Jekyll’s fiancĂ©) and Amiee Collier (Lucy Harris, a prostitute befriended by Jekyll and bedded by Hyde.) The duo were compelling in “In His Eyes.” Collier’s renditions of “Someone Like You” and “A New Life”were captivating.

Dana Hart (Sir Danvers Carew, Lisa’s father) and Ian Atwood (John Utterson, Jekyll’s lawyer) also have excellent singing voices and developed clear characterizations. The choral sounds are lyrical and except for a male chorus member who upstaged others by his overly affected gestures and constantly looking at the audience instead of concentrating on the stage action, the interactions of the supporting cast helped create a proper tone.

The full-voiced orchestra (musical direction by Larry Goodpaster) and the choreography (another gem of a conception by Martin Cespedes) added to the over-all positive effect.

Don McBride’s set, Alison Garrigan’s costumes and Trad Burns lighting also greatly helped. The only technical flaw were the finicky microphones that didn’t consistently work and the overly loud volume when they did. (Oh for the days when shows were not miked and the performers were required to project on their own. This cast might have done well without the electrical help.)

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: A standing “O” for Scott Spence, Dan Folino and the cast and crew of ‘JEKYLL AND HYDE.’ Please, you of the Cleveland area, support this production. It deserves full houses every night!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Peter Pan

Alex and grandpa agree: ‘PETER PAN’ flies successfully at Porthouse

Following the Porthouse Theatre production of ‘PETER PAN,’ I asked Alex Berko, my 11-year old grandson, who serves as my “kid’s view of children centered plays,” what was the message of the play. He said, “Some people never want to grow up. They want to be kids forever.” I followed-up by asking, “Would you like to stay a kid forever?” He replied, “No, I want to experience everything in life.” (Ah, to be young and innocent.)

The story of Peter Pan centers on a mischievous boy who spends his never ending childhood having adventures on the island of Neverland as leader of the Lost Boys. The story features many fantastical elements, including Peter’s ability to fly and his friendship with a fairy named Tinkerbell. There is also a crocodile who stalks the fearsome Captain Hook, the pirate leader who is Peter's nemesis.

Barrie created Peter Pan in stories he told to the sons of his friend, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, with whom he had forged a special relationship. When Davies' death from cancer came within a few years after the death of her husband, Barrie was named as co-guardian of their boys and unofficially adopted them. These experiences are all alluded to directly and indirectly in the play.

In addition, the ticking clock within the crocodile, who seeks out Captain Hook is parallel to the time that is chasing after all of us. Some, in order to avoid the ticking clock seek physical youth through plastic surgery and pursuing the “fountain of youth.”

Other mind joggers are: What’s the role of women? What’s the function of motherhood? Is there a best way to bring up children? And, who are the true “bad guys?”

J. M. Barrie’s concept of eternal youth gave birth to a psychiatric term, “The Peter Pan Syndrome” used to describe adults who are afraid of commitment or refuse to act their age.

Peter Pan first appeared in print in 1902 in the book ‘THE LITTLE WHITE BIRD.’ In 1904 , a play version, ‘PETER PAN, OR THE BOY WHO WOULDN'T GROW UP,’ premiered in London.

The production at Porthouse, is an adaptation of various play versions and director Matthew Earnest’s imagination.

Just as with his wonderful production of ‘OUR TOWN,’ which was part of Porthouse’s 2006 season, Earnest pulls out all sorts of creative juices to give the show a “new” approach. He has added original music (don’t anticipate hearing “I Got to Crow,” or “I’ll Never Grow Up.” They aren’t included), has young adults playing the children, makes the audience use their imagination to create illusions, and has generally assembled a good cast to showcase his ideas. The visualization of Tinkerbelle, the creation of a “water-filled lagoon,” and boats floating around the stage, are all inspired concepts.

Emily Pote, who was a Times Theatre Tribute award winner for her portrayal of Emily in ‘OUR TOWN,’ again excels as Wendy. Monica Bell makes for a sympathetic and wise mother. Matthew Troillett is filled with wide-eyed wonder and youthful exuberance as Michael, Wendy’s youngest brother. Both Gabriel Riazi (Tootles, one of the lost boys) and Elizabeth Ann Townsend (Nana, the Darling families dog and child care keeper) are delightful.

Jonathan Ramos lacks the necessary charm and pluckiness of Peter. Most of his lines are presented with little affect. He lacks facial expression, and does not inhabit the role. John Woodson does not develop well either his role as Mr. Darling or of the evil Hook. As Alex stated, “The pirate leader just wasn’t scary enough.”

Alex’s other comments: “The first act was a 10 out of 10, the second a 7 1/2.” His reasoning? “The first act was fun and there were lots of clever things happening, such as the kid crawling out of the bucket. However, the second act was slower and didn’t hold my attention as well.” He also liked the flying effects and some of the music.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Overall, Porthouse’s ‘PETER PAN’ is an excellent evening of theatre. It adds new dimensions to the story, well beyond those of the Walt Disney animation or the stage production. It may be a little long for younger children, but it is a fine way for older children and their parents to see a play that they can view and discuss and delight in.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Narrow Bridge

Poorly written and performed ‘A NARROW BRIDGE’ at Bang and Clatter

You have to give a lot of credit to Bang and Clatter, the Akron-based theatre that has a goal of doing world and local premieres, such as their present offering, Clevelander Cliff Hershman’s ‘A NARROW BRIDGE.’

But, as much as the Seans (producers Derry and McConaha) deserve credit for their dedication to helping expose the audience to new material, they also need to make wise choices. “A NARROW BRIDGE’ is a case-in-point.

Hershman, in spite of dedication and a valiant try, doesn’t seem to have the playwriting skills to pull off the needed natural dialogue, development of exposition, and built in motivation for the actors to develop their characters. He doesn’t make us care about the people he is writing about. The script shows a strong need for a good dramaturg to work with the writer to develop the material.

As reflected by actions of the second night-of-the-run audience, the play fails to captivate. There was no applause at the intermission, the sold-out audience thinned after intermission, and the curtain call was met with polite, if unenthusiastic applause.

The story centers on yet another dysfunctional family. This one, a Toledo, Ohio unit, presents Blue, a man who has been a failure most of his life and is out to scam his second-wife, Edie, out of the value of her house. Edie is an insecure woman who was abandoned by her previous husband, and has only the house she salvaged out of the divorce. Her junior high school daughter (Kim) is being seduced by her step-father as part of his plan to get the youngster to convince her mother to sign loan papers which will allow Blue to grab the dough and run. The final member of the group is Willy, Blue’s drugged-out son from a previous marriage who has returned, for no explicable reason, from wandering in the desert where he has “faced the void.” (I’m not sure what that means, but at one point in the production a character asked about the “meaning of meaning.” Someone in the audience, after having hearing the phrase expressed more than a dozen times, yelled, out, “It’s all about the void, man.” It got the biggest reaction of the night.)

Hershman knows no bounds when it comes to psychological problems and has stacked them high in the script. Bulimia, drug and alcohol use, emotional avoidance, drug addiction, absent-father syndrome, abandonment, depression, incest and sexual depravity are only some of the deviances glanced over.

The writing style leaves the actors at bay. The cast seemed confused about their characters’ identities. The motivations behind the character’s actions were often not developed.

The over-all effect was four weak performances and little audience empathy. The cause? Part script, part talent, part directing.

Chuck Simon showed no understanding of the motivations behind the role of Blue. The idea development of his lines was generally missing. In addition, he stumbled over lines and overlapped some of his speeches with those of other cast members.

Ann McEvoy (Edie) valiantly tried to create the mother role, but she, too, was thwarted by the writing.

Jennifer Hoffman (Kim), was too old for the role of a junior high student, and was unconvincing in her portrayal.

Even Ton Weaver, a B&C favorite who has shown he is a fine actor, failed to develop a clear characterization.

The set added to the chaos. A back wall served as a divider/stairway for three different rooms and the house’s entrance. Actors kept ducking in-and-out behind the wall, making for chaos as to where they were or where they were going.

Some questionable directing decisions were made by Sean McConaha. When Kim turned on a set of personal headphones, the audience could hear the music...why? When, in the final scene, a car speeds away from the house, we hear the car. This is the only time we hear outside noises. And, people walked through “locked” doors.

Capsule judgement: During “A NARROW BRIDGE’ one of the characters stated, “I’m sorry you had to see this.” A person sitting next to me moaned, “Yep!” Unfortunately, there is little that I can conjure up to encourage the reader to attend this production other than to say that you get all the free wine and beer you want before the opening curtain and at intermission. Too bad I’m not a drinker. it might have helped.