Sunday, April 27, 2008

All Hail Hurricane Gordo

'GORDO,’ fun--not the usual CPH fare

‘ALL HAIL HURRICANE GORDO,’ Carly Mensch’s comedy with a message, which is now on stage at The Cleveland Play House, is the kind of play that you might expect at Cleveland Public Theatre or The Bang and Clatter. It’s an off-the-wall script that needs an outlandish production and the right kind of audience to gain its bizarre level of full effect.

Not surprisingly, many of the patrons at the production I saw, seemed unmoved by the exceedingly good production they were observing. From the nerf ball basketball game that started before the play actually began, to one of the characters literally bouncing off the walls, dressed in a football helmet, knee pads and gym shorts, to the hopeful ending, audience members were either laughing hysterically or stoically sitting in silence.

The story concerns two adult brothers living on their own. As the story unfolds we find out that the duo were abandoned in a parking lot by a mother, who found herself overwhelmed by life. In order to make sure that Children’s Services does not separate them, the older brother Chaz, hides Gordo, his emotionally challenged brother, by returning the duo to their family home. Working enough to pay for basic necessities, selling off the family possessions, and living in squalor, the duo basically live as recluses. In an attempt to raise some money, Chaz decides to rent out a room. Along comes India, a teenager who has run away from her affluent family. Through her bizarre actions, she quickly brings the duo’s problems to the surface and helps bring about some semblance of resolution.

In Yiddish, the word mensch (the author’s last name) means a person of high integrity and compassion. The author imbues Chaz with those qualities. Yet, though one admires Chaz’s commitment to his brother, one can only wonder why he was willing to give up a promising tennis career and college scholarship to care-take the psychologically fragile Gordo.

The play abounds with questions. Is it possible to be your brother's keeper and have a life too? What is really behind Chaz’s obsessive letter writing? Why does Gordo have outbursts where he slams his head into the wall? Are his outbreaks an illness or a device to keep his brother bound to him?

Carly Mensch is a promising playwright. This script, which received rave reviews at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, puts her in the class of Craig Wright (‘ORANGE FLOWER WATER’ which received an amazing staging at Akron’s Bang and Clatter earlier this year) and Neil LaBute, whose ‘THIS IS HOW IT GOES,’ is presently on stage at Cleveland’s newest theatre, Bang and Clatter.

Mensch has a wonderful way with words and visual images. In ‘GORDO,’ she weaves a play about family responsibility and dependency, with an uncomplicated format that evokes laughs about a subject which, on the surface, is not funny. However, if she had made this into a drama, it could have been emotionally overwhelming. Being able to laugh at the painful is often the best way to approach certain subjects. It’s the same device LaBute used in his enthralling ‘FAT PIG.’

The play encourages audience members to think about our responsibilities to our loved ones and how they may conflict with our responsibilities to ourselves.

The CPH production, under the adept direction of Sean Daniels, is excellent. The cast is uniformly fine. As Gordo, Patrick James Lynch is a perfect boy/man. He develops a character that carefully balances his being sympathetic, yet infuriating.

Matthew Dellapina, who has the physical air of the stereotypical nerd, capably makes Chaz a caretaker and enabler who has given his life for his brother.

Tracee Chimo nicely develops India, the potential housemate, into a spoiled teenager, who is both wise and unwise.

William McNulty’s Oscar, India’s father, clearly displays the frustration of being the father of a teenage girl.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: ‘ALL HAIL HURRICANE GORDO’ is the kind of play that audience members will either love or question why they attended. I loved it. It was a departure from the usual Play House script and I appreciate their going out on a limb to expand their offerings. Maybe picking scripts like this will encourage a younger audience to attend.

Verb Ballet ("to hope")

‘VERB’ good, but needs to step up their game

I consider Verb Ballets to be one of the best dance companies in the area. I have watched in pleasant joy as the company matured. Unfortunately, in the last year, I’ve seen what I consider a stagnation setting in. They haven’t upped their game.

The females in the company are outstanding. They consistently are up to the task of interpreting the works of Artistic Director Hernando Cortez and guest choreographers.

Early this year Verb lost two of its male dancers. Neither has been replaced. This leaves the company with three male dancers. The very proficient Brian Murphy; Robert Wesner, who is a fine solo dancer but doesn’t always pull back and blend when he is dancing in corps, and Sydney Ignacio, who does excellent leaps, but does not fit in with Cortez’s disciplined style.

Yes, it is difficult to find strong male dancers, but if Verb is to continue to grow and not atrophy, it needs to find two or at least one very strong male dancer. The missing link was evident in their recent ‘to hope’ program at Fusion Fest ’08.

‘APPALACHIAN SPRING,’ is subtitled “Ballet for Martha” because of its strong ties to choreographer Martha Graham, who created the dance in 1944. Verb has performed this piece many times. In spite of strong performances by Murphy, Catherine Meredith and Katie Gnagy, this was the company’s weakest rendition of the Graham classic. Sydney Ignacia simply does not have the stage presence and power to portray the fanatic Revivalist whose followers quake at his every command and blindly follow his lead. In addition, The Followers often reverted to a pounding on the ground pattern, that evoked laughter from some of the audience. This is the not the intended purpose of that choreography.

In Cortez’s ‘TWO HOURS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD,’ another revival, Wesner did what he does best, shine as a soloist. Though Cortez contends that he did not set out to create a 9/11 tribute, the piece does have much of a disaster-centered theme. The chaos, panic and strong movements project an emotional core. Edward Hille’s video background helps create the mood, though watching a video of dancers paralleling the movements on stage could confuse some. Why not just accept that this is a 9/11 piece and have the video show the destructive holocaust of the fall of the Twin Towers. The ending seemed to catch the audience by surprise, not realizing that the piece was over they sat quietly sitting, waiting. Waiting for whatever.

‘THE YELLOW RIVER,’ in its world premiere, was an agreeable piece that used ballet movements to interpret Asian music (Jian Zhong-Wang’s “The Yellow River Concerto”) and the classical “The Mermaid Ballet Suite: Waterweed.” Though the dancers were not always in sync, the overall effect was generally positive. The piece allowed an opportunity for the company’s interns to perform. The lovely female costumes were designed by Suzy Campbell.

Capsule judgement: Verb's latest dance concert was good, but they need to step up and be great!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

This Is How It Goes

Bang & Clatter: new venue opens with well produced play

The Bang and Clatter Theatre Company, which moved into its new home in Cleveland, chose to produce a Neil LaBute play as its premiere piece. LaBute and B&G have a lot in common. They are both entities that do not fade away from the “in your face” kind of theatre.

B&G, was founded by two modern day Don Quixotes…Sean Derry and Sean McConaha, who in 2005 “dreamed the impossible dream.” They started a theatre with $4000 in Akron! Sound like a sure highway ride to road kill? In spite of the odds, the unconventional dynamic duo envisioned a venue for the production of “innovative, challenging works of exceptional quality and imagination with a particular emphasis on modern American plays never have been seen in Ohio.” And, have they succeeded! The plays have generally been impressive, gaining many critical bravos. (Including almost a dozen Times Tribute Outstanding Theatre Awards last year alone.)

The many Cuyahoga County residents, along with a few Akronites, who have trekked out to the Rubber City to attend B&G shows is impressive. Last year their production season operated on about a quarter of a million dollars. They sold over 500 season tickets and charge only $15 per ticket. And, if you can’t afford that, you pay what you can.

Their new Cleveland home is the old Cole’s Shoe Store, next to the vacant May Company Building on Euclid. MRN Ltd, the developers of the East 4th Street walking street, downtown’s new entertainment mecca, with such restaurants as Lola’s and Saigon and entertainment venues, including The House of Blues and Pickwick and Frolic, had such faith in the Seans, that they have given them the space rent-free for five years. Real estate developer Cliff Hershman, the George Gund Foundation and the City of Cleveland also are strongly backing the project.

Their opening show, ‘THIS IS HOW IT GOES,’ is a typical B&G script selection.
The Sean’s, who are fans of LaBute, produced an amazing production of ‘FAT PIG’ last season.

LaBute is noted for his realistic language, edgy topics and unsettling portrayals of human relationships. It is impossible to be an impassive viewer of his plays. He sweeps you in, often with his vivid language, his clear character developments, with his blatant use of words (the “N” word has great prominence in this script), and always with his subject matter.

‘THIS IS HOW IT GOES,’ on the surface, is a play about a love triangle between a white male and an interracial couple. The seed for the plot evolved from a damning letter LaBute received after directing the film, ‘NURSE BETTY,’ in which there is a kiss between a white woman and a black man. Yes, racial hated is alive and well in this country, in spite of all the strides that have been made to eradicate it.

The play confronts race, morality, and American ethos through the use of humor, drama, intrigue, and a clever plot twist. Using the theatrical device of alienation, in which the audience is constantly made aware they are in a theatre, LaBute includes multi-locations with all set changes being made in clear view, and a narrator who not only guides the journey but steps into the action, playing one of the lead characters. He does this because, as he states, “Theater only needs someone to stand up and say: ‘Listen to this.’”

The play is set in a small Midwestern town. Cody, who is African American, was once the star of the high school track team. He has become a successful businessman. His white wife Belinda, a former cheerleader, stays at home with the baby. When a high school acquaintance returns to town and rents the room over their garage, he upsets the delicate balance of their relationship, raising questions about who they want to be, who they are, and what made them that way.

From the audience’s standpoint, the question becomes, “Which of the tales we are watching is real, truthful, authentic?” Who is fooling who? Is it only the characters who are playing with each other, or is LaBute playing with us, the viewers?

B&B’s production, under the adept direction of Fred Sternfeld, is on track. Though a long sit at a little over two hours with no intermission, the pacing is appropriate and there is little time for the mind to wander.

The cast is excellent. Doug Kulak, who has a wonderful way of playing with words and the mobile face to amaze and amuse, is tremendous as Man, the high school acquaintance. The role was played by Ben Stiller in the New York production, and it is difficult to believe that he was any better than Kusak.

Michael May, who was outstanding in Dobama’s production of ‘TAKE ME OUT,’ again hits a homer as Cody, a man driven by early-life demons.

Leighann Niles DeLorenzo, though she sometimes seems to lose concentration, is believable as Belinda.

Rachel Zake moves the set pieces and highlights Cody’s insecurities as the Waitress.

Capsule judgment: Walking into the Cole Shoe Store, where I had my very first job as a high schooler, and seeing it transformed into an attractive and functioning theatre space, was a surreal experience. Seeing a quality production of the show by the B&G family was not surreal. Clevelanders should open their arms and pocketbooks wide to welcome Bang and Clatter to the area. Good luck Seans!!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In the Continuum

‘IN THE CONTINUUM’ emotionally moves and educates audience at CPT

‘IN THE CONTIUUM’ the two-woman play which is now being staged at Cleveland Public Theatre, began as a graduate school acting project.

When Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter were students in New York University's graduate program, they discovered that each was working on a play about AIDS and its effect on black women. Gurira set her story in her home country of Zimbabwe. Salter’s script was set in her native Los Angeles. The two decided to combine their two scripts into one. Obviously, the idea was good as the resulting work, ‘IN THE CONTINUUM,’ went on to be named one of the ten best plays of the year.

The play centers on Abigail and Nia, the play's protagonists, who appear to have nothing in common other than being black and pregnant. Abigail is a newscaster in Zimbabwe, married to an accountant and pregnant with their second child. Nia is an outspoken unmarried pregnant teenager living in LA. Interestingly, when Abigail speaks of her dreams she sounds more American than African. Nia, in her unschooled ways, sounds more like a resident of a Third World country. Then we find out that Abigail's husband cheats on her, and Nia has no hope of marrying the father of her child, a highly recruited high school basketball player. And they both have HIV, given to them by their philandering sex partners.

The script, which is not preachy, is mesmerizing. Though the concept sounds depressing, it isn’t. The play is creatively developed, often filled with laughs, and makes it points without lecturing.

It was interesting sitting in an audience on opening night that was composed of many African Americans. As is the oral tradition of many American blacks, based on the oral tradition of church preachers and political speakers, there was much talk back to the cast. Agreement as to the statements being made and disagreement with some of the decisions the characters make were accented by audience vocal reactions. It made the experience encompassing and added to the realism of the authors’ words.

The CPT production, under the wise direction of Tony Sias, is well paced, of high intensity, and filled with the proper humor. Kimberly Brown as Nia and Bianca Sams as Abigail are excellent. Their talent goes beyond playing the two women, as each also portrays numerous other characters. They are believable throughout.

Capsule judgement: ‘IN THE CONTINUUM’ is an excellent script, that receives a stellar performance at Cleveland Public Theatre. This is a play that says much about world conditions and the international AIDS crisis, in a real and compelling way. It is a must see!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well

‘Alls’ not well at Great Lakes Theatre Festival

‘ALLS WELL THAT END’S WELL,’ which is now in production at the
Great Lakes Theatre Festival, is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays. Besides its lack of compelling plot, the script has a reputation for being an “unlucky play.” In one of its first productions, the actor playing the female lead fainted and had to be replaced, mid-show. Then the actor playing the king fainted and subsequently died. Other productions have also met with strange happenings.

As far as I know, GLTF's production hasn’t met with any tragedies, but the staging isn’t exactly filled with life and vim. In fact, it is plodding, uninspired and generally flat.

‘ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL,’ is classified as a comedy, though it is probably a Bard problem play….neither tragedy nor comedy. It is also one of Shakespeare’s least produced plays. It simply does not have the power of such work’s as ‘HAMLET, and ‘MACBETH’ nor the delight of ‘MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.’

The story concerns Helena, the orphan daughter of a famous physician, who is the ward of the Countess of Rousillon. She is hopelessly in love with Count Bertram, the Countess’ son. When the handsome and charismatic Bertram is sent to the court of the King of France, Helena is crestfallen. Despite her beauty and goodness, Helena has no hope of attracting him since she is of low birth and he is a nobleman. However, when word comes that the King is ill, she goes to Paris and, using her father's medicines, she cures the malady. In return, she is given the hand of any man in the realm. Of course, she chooses Bertram. Her new husband is appalled at the match, and after their unconsummated marriage flees France. And, as the convoluted plot develops, we know in advance that everything will be all right, as all’s well that ends well.

‘ALL’S WELL,’ which is directed by GLTF’s artistic director Charles Fee, is a disappointment. Fee, who is noted for his over the top attitude when it comes to overblown farce, fails to turn on the jets in this production. The farce isn’t farcical, the comedy isn’t comedic, the drama isn’t dramatic. The one saving grace is that the languid pace does allow the audience to clearly hear each word.

The cast is generally weak. Markus Potter doesn’t seem to have the dramatic chops for bringing life to Bertram who is supposed to be charismatic, imbued with leadership talents and is a dominating physical figure. None of these characteristics were present in Potter’s performance.

Sara Brunner has some good moments as Helena, but is several steps away from developing a special young woman who inspires our desires for her to succeed in her quest. Much of the performance was on the surface.

Though amusing, David Anthony Smith, who I must admit is one of my favorite GLTF players, didn’t have fun with Parolles, the over-exaggerating liar and buffoon. The same with Jeffrey Hawkins, who has become the company’s “player of clowns.” He threw away lines that should have been funny and feigned prat falls.

Countess Rossillion, is one of the few good roles for an older actress in the Shakespeare canon. Modern productions have starred the likes of Judi Dench and Peggy Ashcroft. Laura Perrotta is perfectly acceptable in the role, but captivating, she isn’t.

The one bright shining performance is that of Aled Davies, as the King. He is character right!

And then there is the set. Gage Williams’ has loaded the smallish stage with a massive fortress that pushes the action so forward that the actors have limited space to move. The large pillars so dominate that those of sitting on the sides of the theatre cant see much of the action mid to rear center stage. Then there is the large box that pops up at various times from the stage floor for no apparent reason other than to shout, “special effect.” What was Williams’ thinking?

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: It is fairly common for GLTF’s opening night audiences to jump to their feet at the final curtain, yelling “bravos.” During the curtain call of ‘ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL,’ there was polite applause, no standing ovation and people left the theatre talking about the rainy weather and yet another loss by the Indians, who had just finished their game at Progressive Field. Those actions sum up the production. Want a great theatre experience ? See GLTF’s mesmerizing THE CRUCIBLE!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Inlet Dance 4/08

INLET DANCE continues to impress and adds yet another mission

Inlet Dance Theatre, which recently performed as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks program, is noted for their dedication to personal and regional growth and outreach. As announced by Bill Wade, the group’s Artistic Director during a concert interlude, the company added “global” to their mission. Their global outreach was clearly in evidence at the CPT program.

The dance concert consisted of six movement segments and a mini-lecture about Easter Island.
The first dance, ‘TIDES AND SOLITUDE,’ was choreographer Sally Wallace’s vision of the solitude, peace and harmony that takes place when breaking the traditional mold allows for the creation of joy. Using long poles and dressed in gauze costumes that took on the air of sails, the dancers catalapulted across the stage to Brian Eno and Robert Fripp’s flowing music. There was a soothing quality to the entire blend of sound and movements which was artistically performed by the corps.

‘OFFAXIS,’ in its premiere, was strongly danced by Joshua Brown, who collaborated with Wade on the choreography. Costumed in plumage, Brown broke outside the traditional box by allowing himself to not only look different, but move in creative and challenging ways.

‘AGE OF ISOLATION,’ a cleverly conceived Inlet premiere, danced to the atonal music of Philip Glass, found the cast starting a traditional dance sequence. But, soon, the performers found a computer, cell phones, ipods and electronic games pulling at their attention. Finally, each become so isolated in his or her own technological world, that the dance itself became non-existent. This was a definite audience pleaser.

‘DANCES FROM RAPA NUI’ were a series of Rapa Nui dances. Rapa Nui is the the native name for what westerners call Easter Island. The performers, dressed in traditional Island clothing and emblazoned with tribal makeup, used traditional native music to give the audience a glimpse of the island’s culture.

This segment was developed as part of an international artist exchange in which the Inlet dancers were taught Rapa Nui movements by Easter Island residents Akahanga Rapu Tudi and Joanna Pako. The next phase of the outreach will take place later this month when eight company members travel to Easter Island for a two-week residency where they will not only learn more about the Rapa Nui culture, but expose the residents to their first dose of modern dance.

‘DREAM OF SLEEPING,’ which was based on research provided by the National Sleep Foundation, was mostly danced with closed eyes. It found the dancers gyrating on the floor as they attempted to fall asleep, then sleep and then react to their restlessness, dreams and nightmares. Though a little long, it was another creative piece by Wade set to the music of former Clevelander, Ryan Lott.

The program ended with “OUT OF NOWHERE,’ performed to singer Ada Sari’s operatic solos, as well as segments of spoken words and some hip-hop. The lighthearted piece, centered, as most of the evening did, on how culture influences each of us. Choreographed by Stephen Wynne, the dance asks, “Are relationships and values always determined to change?”

Capsule judgement: Bill Wade and his Inlet Dance Theatre are a unique company. They go outside the box looking beyond traditional roles of performers and use the medium to teach and enlighten. Their DanceWorks program was yet another well performed, creatively conceived and entertaining evening of dance.

Golda's Balcony

Dorothy Silver is mesmerizing on ‘GOLDA’S BALCONY’ at ACTORS’ SUMMIT

Dorothy Silver is the first lady of Cleveland theatre. Golda Meir was the first lady of Israeli politics. The two grand dames are gloriously coming together on the Actors’ Summit stage in ‘GOLDA’S BALCONY.’

‘GOLDA'S BALCONY,’ the one-woman show which was written by William Gibson, ran for play 493 performances on Broadway.

It is an album of a seemingly fearless woman who was Israel’s first female Prime Minister. She was in office when Egyptian troops stormed across the Suez Canal and Syria’s army drove down from the Golan Heights into Israel on Yom Kipper Day, October 6, 1973. The action overwhelmed the Israeli army. Much of the success of the Israelis during that conflict is credited to the almost superhuman efforts of Meir. Her perseverance saved the Israelis from being “driven into the sea.”

From the play’s first line, “I am at the end of my stories,” until the last line when she actually is at the end of her stories, we are immersed in Zionist history and Meir’s personal life and observations. We experience a failed marriage because of her need to be a leader rather than a wife and mother. We observe her struggles and frustrations with the Israeli generals. We want to get up, grab the phone out of her hand and plead with Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, and then-President Richard Nixon, to send help to Israel. Send help or be responsible for the destruction of the country.

Not all is serious. Meir’s sense of humor and ability to laugh at herself lighten up the tale. When Kissinger tells her that he is “first an American, second, the Secretary of State, and third, Jewish,” Meir responds, “That’s fine. We [the Israelis] read from right to left.”

Several years ago Valerie Harper came to Cleveland in a tour production of the play to portray Golda. I commented that Ms. Harper lacked the “tam” (the rich taste, the touch, the soul) of Meir. She acted the role, she didn’t experience the person. This is absolutely not the case with Dorothy Silver.

Silver is mesmerizing. She does not imitate Meir. There is no prosthetic nose, no cigarette smoking, no attempt to recreate Meir’s manly voice. Silver takes the words, makes them her own, and gives a clear picture of the “grandma” of Israel, with all her foibles. And, she does it all masterfully. Her Golda is always focused and riveting--a characterization totally complete.

The use of real pictures of Meir and the people and places that populate her life have been painstakingly culled by co-director A. Neil Thackaberry. The production was supposed to be directed by Reuben Silver, Dorothy’s talented husband. When Reuben became ill, he and Thackaberry become joint directors. Reuben worked with Dorothy at home, Neil with her at the theatre. The outcome is totally satisfying.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘GOLDA’S BALCONY’ is an absolutely must see production. The show has no intermission and is 95 minutes. Plan to stay for the fascinating talk back with Silver and Thackaberry following each performance.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Crucible

‘CRUCIBLE’ disturbs, illuminates and impresses at Great Lakes Theater Festival

A number of years ago, the faculty of the college at which I was teaching, decided to do a sit-in due to what we perceived to be an improper “witch hunt” aimed at the faculty leadership. I decided to spend my class time reading aloud from ‘THE CRUCIBLE’, a play now being produced by the Great Lakes Theatre Festival. I did so because I thought it was a perfect lesson for young minds to hear the brilliant words of Arthur Miller regarding misguided attempts to manipulate and control people.

Miller, one of America’s greatest modern playwrights, used the theatrical concept of historification as his writing device for ‘THE CRUCIBLE.’ The technique is to write a play based on true or near true actions of a different era to represent a present day set of circumstances.

Miller’s script was penned in 1953 as a protest against Joseph McCarthy’s witch-hunt for Communists in the government and entertainment industry during the early 1950s. The country was in hysteria for fear of Russia and its emergence as a major power. McCarthy fed on that hysteria, much like the religious fanatics of Massachusetts colony set upon so-called witches because of the hard times facing the people of the late 17th century. Miller was questioned by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities and held strong feelings against the witch hunting being done and how it had ruined many lives.

The play is relevant today as the Bush administration, using the hysteria of 9-11, has conducted witch hunts and taken away citizen civil rights. Much of this was based on a parallel to the play’s line, “You are either with us or against us.” You are a “good American” as defined by this administration, or you are a traitor.

The play also reflects attitudes of the present day religious right, who, much like the Salem religious fanatics, hunt out those not agreeing with their interpretation of what is “right and wrong.” They attack homosexuals, those who believe in abortion, and those who champion stem cell research, for “poisoning” the “good” folk.

The story concerns an accusation against Goode Proctor by a teenaged girl who, after having a sexual affair with Proctor’s husband, John, accuses Goode Proctor and others of being witches. The chief magistrate, much like Joseph McCarthy, closes his eyes to facts and is swayed by his own agenda. In the process, the question of one’s reputation comes center stage. Proctor cries out, after refusing to sign a document in which he would falsely agree that he has seen the devil, “Because it is my name. Because I cannot have another in my life.”

Great Lakes Theatre Festival director Drew Barr not only understands the underbelly of the play, but has the ability to develop the script’s emotional and logical meaning.

From Narelle Sissons’ stark and disturbing bare plank-wood set, to Rick Martin’s overly bright lighting, to Fitz Patton’s sometimes unnerving music, the entire production screams, “extreme!” I was uncomfortable from the start of the play. In this case, uncomfortable is positive. It made me aware of each of the emotionally tearing lines and each underscore of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.

Andrew May is excellent as John Procter. His last set of speeches, the emotional fulcrum of the play, were stirring. He was, in fact, a man caught between his need to be a good father and husband, and live a life of purpose and self-respect. We saw his self-respect soar, as his resolve came forth.

Aled Davies, as the Deputy Governor, was scary in his reflection of what could well-be some of the present day Supreme Court judges, closed to all but narrow views of what it means to be just.

Jeffrey Hawkins transitioned well as the strongly opinionated John Hale, the reverend who eventually sees the light and realizes the harm caused by being stiff-necked.

As was needed, I hated Abigail Williams, the master manipulator, as portrayed be Sara Bruner. David Anthony Smith was also appropriately obnoxious as the self-centered Reverend Parris.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: It is a shame and a blessing that a play like ‘THE CRUCIBLE’ has to exist. However, as witch-hunts continue, the theatre must have a voice like Miller’s to protest the taking away of rights. And, if such messages must be given a life, then they should be presented as effectively as the GLSF production.

Pride and Prejudice

Charming ‘PRIDE AND PREJUDICE’ at Play House

An interesting side-bit about Jane Austen, the author of the book which has been interpreted into a play, which is presently in production at The Cleveland Play House, is that her tombstone does not include any information about her being a playwright. In fact, her books didn’t even include her name as the writer. They are credited to someone named, “The Author.” But, in spite of those slights, Austin was undoubted the greatest woman author of the early 1800s. And her ‘PRIDE AND PREJUICE,’ first published in 1813, is considered to have been one of the first “romantic comedies” in the history of the modern novel.

Austin’s books and plays may seem like soap-operas by present day standards, but put in context, she mirrored the society about which she was writing. This was a period of pretense, class distinctions and proper marriages.

The book starts with the line, "It is truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." It is this want that pushes forth the script’s plot, a plot which centers on independent-minded Elizabeth Bennet and the efforts made by her mother to find husbands for Elizabeth and her sisters. When Elizabeth meets the handsome but enigmatic Mr. Darcy, the play becomes a contest between strong wills, pride and prejudices.

The Cleveland Play House production, under the wise and purposeful direction of Peter Amster is plush, focused and charming. In spite of its length, three acts and two intermissions, the movement flows effectively.

Amster develops a mood that is era correct. He is aided by Robert Koharchik, who has created an absolutely gorgeous and functional set and Gail Brassard’s equally glorious costumes. CPH has let loose the budget on this production and it shows!

Americans often have trouble creating the right sound and feel for British drama and comedy. No problem here. Dialect coach Don Wadsworth has the cast using the right accents, with sounds that are easy to understand and are consistent. Andre Hopson’s musical interludes and underscores highlight the moods and transition the set changes.

The cast is wonderful. The petite, lovely and perky Chaon Cross makes Elizabeth live. Though he seems a bit disengaged at first, handsome Jason Bradley grows into the role of Darcy so that at the end, he is totally on target. Bill McGough, is a delight in his underplaying Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth’s father.

Judith Day, as Mrs. Bennet, has the difficult task of playing a role that demands to be over-the-top, serve as comedy central, and yet not look like she is begging for laughs. She does the balancing act effectively.

The rest of the cast is up to the demands of clearly written characters and each makes their character distinct.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: If you are a fan of British escapist literature, you can do no better than seeing the CPH’s fine production of ‘PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.” Applause, applause to Peter Amster, his fine cast and technical crew.