Tuesday, November 20, 2012

MIRACLE & WONDER, a StageWrights script, on stage at Ensemble

Every Wednesday night, a group of wanna-be playwrights and their followers meet at Ensemble Theatre “to develop new work through critical evaluation, discussion, pointed questioning, laughter, more discussion, agreement, disagreement, seemingly endless cups of coffee and sometimes a round of sincere applause.”

The first of the group’s efforts to make it to full production is Jonathan Wilhelm’s thought provoking script, MIRACLE AND WONDER.  It is dedicated to Majid Brown, who Wilhelm describes as “the most opinionated person I’ve ever met and I [Wilhelm] mean this in the best way possible.”  He goes on to say that “everyone should be blessed with someone in our lives who is able to be so honest.” 

MIRACLE AND WONDER takes place during the present holiday season, in a suburban city in Midwest America.  The scenes, and there are many of them, occur inside and outside of a house, in a gay bar, a hospital room and a living room. 

Wilhelm’s script doesn’t clearly develop his message, but there are enough hints so that anyone interested in spirituality, mysticism and holiday cheer will glean its wonder, based on miracles, or whatever miracles are.

The cast of characters includes a compulsive school teacher, an alcoholic drag queen, a guardian angel (who switches from being a rabbi to being a viola teacher to being a philosopher), a former Latin teacher who has been estranged from her sister for many years, a African-American tween who as adopted by a Jewish parents, and another youngin’ who is being raised by a gay man who was her deceased father’s lover.  Throw in some holiday miracle, a little wonder, Bette Davis movies, mistaken identities, Midrash parables, Jesus having a bad day, and you have the ingredients of the bizarre Wilhelm’s script.

The Ensemble production is often entertaining, sometimes confounding, and very choppy.  The latter is the result of the playwrights having written a piece requiring many set changes and a director who doesn’t seem to know that having a new realistic set for each new place is not necessary.    It appears Ian Hinz has never heard of suggestive settings or multi-levels.  Even though the idea of having the set changers sing carols as they worked, after a while, even they go bored with the whole concept and just dragged stuff where it needed to go.  He also needed to work with increasing the tempo.

The cast generally carries through on each character’s concept.  Lissy Gulick is delightful as ditzy Noreen.  Anne McEvoy is properly frustrated as Ruth, Noreen’s estranged sister.  Why one of the sisters, who were each “reared” in the same area, has a southern drawl and the other a definite mid-western twang is
unclear, but their bedtime confession scene is a production highlight.

The acting highlight belongs to Tim Tavcar as Malcolm/Polly Esther, a drag queen who gives new meaning to “not passable.”  Though we never get the pleasure of actually experiencing his/her night club performance, we get enough of a view to know that this is not a top of the hill act.

Curt Arnold, as Luke, has some line problems, but basically develops a real person.  John Busser’s Rabbi, prophet, angel is on target, as are the performances by Katie Wilkinson, Lauryn Hobbs and Agnes Herrmann.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  Ensemble’s Stagewright’s concept is an excellent means for local playwrights to try out their writing skills, get constructive feedback, and hopefully get their works staged.  Congratulations to Jonathan Wilhelm for developing the often delightful MIRACLE & WONDER.  Though it needs some refinements, and a more clearly directed concept, it is both entertaining and thought provoking and a change from the usual holiday theater fare.

MIRACLE & WONDER runs Thursdays through Sundays through December 2 at Ensemble Theatre, now housed in Coventry School, 2843 Washington Blvd, Cleveland Heights.  For tickets call 216-321-2930 or go online to www.ensemble-theatre.org

Monday, November 19, 2012

A look behind the scenes at Inlet’s marvelous evening of dance

Roy Berko
(Member, Dance Critics Association)

Every once in a while a reviewer has the opportunity to not only see an enthralling dance performance, but to experience it from the inside.  I accomplished both when I not only saw Inlet Dance’s recent evening of dance, but sat in on a rehearsal.

Inlet Dance Theatre’s sold out November 16 performance at the Hanna Theatre consisted of two world premieres. 

The opening number was a ten-minute excerpt from CHAKRA, choreographed by Kapila Palihawadana.  Kapila is a Sri Lankan born dancer/choreographer/founder and artistic director of nATANDA Dance Theatre of Sri Lanka.  He is one of five international artists who are participating in a three-month stay in the area through the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion International Artist-in-Residence Program.  Kapila has spent his time working with Inlet dancers and engaging in sharing his talents throughout the community.  The culmination of his residency will be the full unveiling of CHAKRA at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Danceworks ‘13. 

CHAKRA, with mood-right lighting by Trad Burns, flowing costumes designed by Kapila, Ivan Leccaroa Correra and Kristin Wade, and an original acoustic drum score by Sean Ellis Hussey, was emotionally involving.  The athletic piece, with strong leaps and powerful interactions, represented a traditional healing ceremony.   The short excerpt insured pleasurable anticipation of the forthcoming staging.

From 2006 through 2008, Inlet Dance participated in the Ohio Arts Council’s International Artist Exchange Program.  Artistic director Bill Wade travelled to Easter Island to select an artist from the island to come to Cleveland.  The next year Akahanga Rapu Tuki came to Cleveland  to teach the Inlet dancers five traditional dances from Rapa Nui.  In 2008 seven Inlet dancers travelled to Easter Island to complete the artist exchange.   They spent two weeks performing, teaching and exploring and forming a “family” with the island residents. 

The results of these exchanges inspired CENTER OF THE EARTH (TE PITO O TE HENUA).  Developed in small segments, the final melding of the parts became public at the Hanna Theatre presentation.  It will be repeated at the International Performing Arts for Youth Conference in Philadelphia during its January session.

The results of the years of effort was obvious to the enthralled audience.  CENTER OF THE EARTH is a tour de force.  The first segment, Hotu Matua, explores the idea of a healthy interdependent community centering on the journey of the people coming to Rapa Nui on canoes.  The water, the waves, the cooperative movements were all vividly apparent. 

Three women and then three men next illustrated the clear gender specific roles and dances of the residents.  Exploring the island left an impression of the physical environment and was illustrated in the fourth segment, Lave Tubes, with the dancers forming visual images of the topography, the needed dexterity to transverse the land, and how cooperation was required to be successful. 

Wind, created by whipping and interweaving with heavy ropes, gave a clear vision of the ever present “voice” in every experience on the island.  It incorporated the history, sense of ritual and the breath of life of the Rapa Nui people.

Underwater World, a metaphor for uniqueness and diversity, unearthed visions of turtles and other underwater sea life.  The ocean is always there, always present in the life of these island people. 

REPRISE was a repeated capsule of the entire program.  It was a reinforcement that illustrated that the work was image based choreography, rather than the traditional dance step based choreography.

I had the privilege of observing a rehearsal of the Hanna program at the Idea Center on PlayhouseSquare.  The marvel of Inlet is its total dedication to collaborative works, in an engaging example of a functional family.  Both Bill Wade, who is a master at working interactively with his dancers, much as he did when he taught at the Cleveland School for the Arts, and Kapila Palihawadana, sought out input and integrated the views and ideas of the dancers.  This technique is not usual in the dance world.  Most commonly, the choreographer develops the movements and implants his ideas on the dancers.  Most often this is done through knowledge of traditional dance vocabulary and historically developed movements.

Since there is no vocabulary for the types of dances being developed for these programs, not only were movements being created, but a vocabulary was developed.  According to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis of communication, if  something has no name it does not exist in any form other than a quick illusion.  To create permanency, and the ability to repeat and perfect the ideas, they needed to be named.  This was evident in the idea development as the interactive dances were created.

It was fascinating to watch how almost fifteen minutes was spent developing the exact hand placements for an instantaneous segment.  Not once did the choreographer tell the dancers what to do.  The dancers suggested, practiced, worked it out, as Wade blended his views with the “family.”  It was a lesson in true cooperative creation and the building of trust.  What a lesson for others to learn of how to create without letting ego and power be the rule of operation.  It was a true lesson on the building of community, an important aspect of not only the motto of the people of Easter Island, but of Wade, himself.

Capsule judgement:  The Inlet Dance Theatre program was an experience that anyone interested in community, healthy family relationships, ethnology and sociology, let alone dance, should experience.  When the program is repeated in other local venues, GO!  This is an absolutely MUST SEE experience!
Next up:  CHAKRA at Cleveland Public Theatre’s Danceworks ’13, April 11-13, 2013.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weakly conceived pacifist script produced at none too fragile

There is a reconstructed theatre company in the area, none too fragile, which  bills itself as “Akron and Northeast Ohio’s home for kick-a** theater!.”   It has just opened it’s second show in its new venue.

Formerly affiliated with Bang and Clatter, Sean Derry and Alanna Romansky have reconstituted the performance company and, after a short tenure in Cuyahoga Falls, has settled into a space in the rear section of Bricco’s restaurant.  Derry, who has built no less than six theaters, swears “this is the most permanent and final one.”

Karen Sunde’s HOW HIS BRIDE CAME TO ABRAHAM is billed as a pacifist tragedy, which is timely and  haunting.  If you consider a bias toward the Arabic cause to be acceptable, the play fits the definition of “pacifist.”

Sunde sets out to create a modern myth in which a wounded male Israeli soldier (Abraham) and a female Palestinian terrorist (Sabra) find themselves in Southern Lebanon, at night, in a cave-like enclosure.  Strong tension and mistrust are present.  They spar over homes and rights and threaten each other with death.  She tells horror stories about what was done to her family by the Israelis.  He tells stories about his grandmother and the Holocaust.  Voices and sounds invade their interactions.  Eventually, through a series of questionably motivated writing maneuvers, the duo has a sexual liaison.  The motivation of how “love” has blossomed between the duo is as illusionary as the premise of pacifism.

Sunde, in an interview, states, “I am a story-teller.  Life fascinates me, so I portray it in any form it seems to call for.”

I found the play filled with propaganda, couched in the form of the stories.  It is a diatribe of horrors that Israelis committed, with little balance of the history of the Arab inspired attacks against the Zionist state. 

As emotionally moving as the play may be, biased views do not a pacifist tale make.  If anything this furthers the cause of hatred.

The play, which was originally published in 2001, and officially premiered in January of 2004, is in the process of being made into a movie sponsored by the IDOC/NORTH AMERICA.  The organization “deals with contemporary and recent historical issues that relate, on a perspective from the individual to the global, to the concerns of opinion-makers and public policy-making groups in the United States, and, where possible, abroad.”  They propose that “The Abraham Project is intended to highlight the need to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians, and to dissolve the death-grip in which each is held by the other.” 

Though that mission is noble, HOW HIS BRIDGE CAME TO ABRAHAM is not the kind of vehicle to develop that goal.  It is too biased, not well written, and too unclear in objective purpose.

The none too fragile production, under the direction of Sean Derry is often compelling.  Performed in a sand covered area, dust flies, conflict is evident, the acting good.

Both Gabriel Riazi and Leighann Niles Delorenzo form meaningful characters, stretching beyond the limits of the script.  In spite of their excellent acting, the overall supposed message is missing.  Nowhere do we get what the author says is her purpose, “a distinct work that will help, and will answer ‘What can I do?’ in a world and a time that needs all of our best efforts.”  The author further states that she set out on a mission, “So they [the audience] could leave that space with new hope, new compassion, and a fresh determination to resolve their peoples’ conflict.”  Again, where she perceives this in her script is a mystery.

Capsule judgement: In spite of good acting and an intense production, HOW HIS BRIDE CAME TO ABRAHAM has such a biased development that it fails to live up to the stated goal of educating the audience on hope and compassion as it relates to a pacifist attitude toward the Israeli/Arab conflict.

HOW HIS BRIDGE CAME TO ABRAHAM runs through December 8 at none to fragile theater located in Bricco’s Restaurant, 1841 Merriman Road, Akron.  Use the free valet parking, as car space is limited.  For tickets call 330-671-4563 or go to http://www.nonetoofragile.com

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Powerful, enlightening THE WHIPPING MAN shines at Cleveland Play House

Even before it opened, due to strong ticket demand, the Cleveland Play House announced a week’s extension for the run of Matthew Lopez’s THE WHIPPING MAN.  The theatre’s foresight was as insightful as the play.

Every once in a while an audience is exposed to a perfect production.  It requires a well written and purposeful script, a strong message, a director who clearly understands the playwright and his/her purpose in penning the work, and a cast who live, rather than act, their roles.  THE WHIPPING MAN is such an experience.

On the surface, THE WHIPPING MAN is a tale set at the close of the Civil War in which Caleb DeLeon, a Confederate soldier returns to his Richmond, Virginia, palatial home, now a charred wreckage, to find his family missing and two former slaves, Simon and John, still there in spite of the their now being free men.  Caleb is badly wounded.  The former slaves take care of him.  As the story unfolds, an examination of friendship, faith and the meaning of freedom are revealed as there is a probing of the question asked each year during the Passover Seder, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”

Caleb, bitter, disillusioned and haunted by secrets has turned from his religious teachings.  Simon is an elderly negro man.  He is waiting for the DeLeons, who left with Simon’s wife and daughter, to return from hiding and collect the money he was promised by Mr. DeLeon.  Money that will allow him to buy some property and build a small house and live as a free man.  John, a young man about Caleb’s age, frustrated and bursting with dreams, he wants to flee to New York. 

Little known to many was that there were about 50,000 Jews in the South on the eve of the Civil War.  Though only a tiny number owned plantations, those who could afford it owned house slaves, much in the manner of their non-Jewish neighbors.   In THE WHIPPING MAN, the DeLeon family was one of those slave owners.  They, as revealed in the plot exposition, brought up their slave family in the ways of Judaism, complete with holiday celebrations and Jewish dietary laws.

In an interview, Matthew Lopez, a self-described “foxhole Episcopalian” from the Florida panhandle, the son of a Puerto Rican father and a Polish-Russian mother, was asked how he came to write a play about a Jewish Confederate solider and two former slaves celebrating Passover together.   His responses centered on his parent’s interest in the civil war, his being bullied as a gay teenager who felt discrimination, and his constant self-probing for who he was and what he’d do next.  

He also was drawn to the subject after viewing the movie, GLORY, about a regiment of black troops during the Civil War, which raised the question of how someone who was a slave all his life, would act when he became suddenly free.  “How do you make that psychological change?”  As one of the play’s character asks, “What do I do now?”  He saw a parallel to the Jews leaving Egypt and later being freed from the concentration camps following the Holocaust.

While reading an autobiography of Frederick Douglass, Lopez fumbled on a reference to the fact that in 1865, the Passover observance began the day after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.  Thus, the time setting of the play, which parallels the time of the Exodus from Egypt and the freedom of the slaves in the United States.

CPH’s THE WHIPPING MAN is a finely conceived production under the expert direction of Giovanna Sardelli.  It is well paced, clearly focused, and expertly supported by the sound, light and setting dimensions.  Era correct costumes and props further enhance.  But, the highlight of the show are the razor honed performances.

Shawn Fagan, as Caleb, who spends most of the play lying down due to a battle induced injury, conveys anguish and frustration with his voice and flashing eyes.  Pain and angst blast from him.  This is a man tortured by several secrets that eat away at his very being and are revealed in several breath-gasping scenes.

Russell G. Jones is gripping as the elderly Simon.  Spouting forth Jewish Biblical pronouncements, Jones clearly creates a man who understands himself, his purpose and his loyalties to his family and former owners.  The closing scene, when he literally and figuratively strips himself, is compelling.

Avery Glymph doesn’t portray the emotionally wound-up John, he is John.  John of panther quickness and determination.  John who was sent to the whipping man for his constant outbursts, but, as later revealed, for being someone who he shouldn’t have been.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: THE WHIPPING MAN is one of the finest theatrical productions of this theatre season.  It is required viewing by anyone who wants to experience theater at its finest.  This is one show that deserved a standing ovation.  Wow!

THE WHIPPING MAN runs December 2 through  at the Allen Theatre.  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to www.clevelandplayhouse.com.

Re-envisioned BEAUTY AND BEAST short of original concept’s charm
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a fairy tale about Belle, a young lady who lives in a provincial town, and her encounter with a spoiled young prince who was turned into a beast by an enchantress because he had no love in his heart.  He, and the members of his household, would remain forever in his ugly state unless he learned to love and someone loved him back.  As in all good “once upon a time” stories, it ends with a “they lived happily ever after.”

The musical, which is in a revival national tour now lodged in the Palace Theatre in Playhouse Square, is based on the 1991 Disney animated musical, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.  The Broadway show opened in 1994 and ran through 2007, 5,464 performances, making it one of the top ten longest running productions in the great white way history.

The show has tuneful Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman (lyrics) which include such memorable tunes as Belle, If I Can Love Her, Something There, Human Again, A Change in Me, and the title song, Beauty and the Beast.

As with the movie, the original Broadway production was charming.  It contained fairy tale sets, costumes and performances.  It was a production which evoked smiles from the very start and some clever humorous scenes, mixed with some moments of slight terror.  All in all it was the perfect family musical.

This touring edition, under the direction of Rob Roth, goes in a different direction.  The less elaborate sets are more comic book than fantasy.  The costumes don’t encourage smiles and often look tacky, almost old time Las Vegas.  The musical arrangements aren’t as lush, often sounding hard, not enchanting.  There also appears to be an attempt to make this a message musical,  the message being that we all have fears, we all have a beast within us. 

Universally, the young and mostly Broadway-light inexperienced cast has excellent singing voices.  The choreography, though not as resourceful as the original production, works adequately well, especially in such production numbers as Gaston and Be Our Guest.

Hilary Maiberger, though she doesn’t have the classic Disney heroine looks or charm, makes for a fine Belle. 

Darick Pead also doesn’t have the traditional look of a Disney prince, but his Beast interpretation has some wonderful moments, such as when he howls like a child when Belle attempts to salve his wounds which he received protecting her from the forest wolves when she left the palace in search of her father. 

Jeff Brooks didn’t have the body nor the attitude or natural swagger for the bigger than life Gaston.  The tour started with 21 year-old Matt Farcher in the role.  Unfortunately, on September 28, while in Houston, he was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with atypical HUS, an ultra rare life-threatening blood disease.  The cost of treatment is extremely expensive and the cast is asking for donations to help cover the costs.  Those interested in contributing can do so at http://www.indiegogo.com/makingadifferenceformatt

Jimmy Larkin overdoes the prat falls and farce as Lefou, but, as in much of the production, farce is stressed over fantasy realism.  This weakens the wonder factor.

Erin Edelle is wonderful as Mrs. Potts, as is Hassan Nazari-Robati as Lumiere, James May as Cogsworth, Jessica Lorion as Babette, William Martin as Maurice, Shani Hadjian as Madame de la Grande Bouche and Charlie Jones as Chip.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:   The touring production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST doesn’t have the charm of the original staging.  It’s more Saturday morning television  cartoons and over-done farce than enchantment, but, as evidenced by the response of the opening night audience, audiences will generally like it.
Tickets for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which runs through November 18 at the Palace Theatre, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or going to www.playhousesquare.org.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A calendar of Winter, 2013 Cleveland, Ohio theater offerings

Don’t just hunker down during Cleveland’s season of discontent and snow, support the local theatres.  BTW…tickets to local theatres make great holiday presents!


216-241-6000 or go to www.clevelandplayhouse.com

January 11-February 3
A classic comedy centering on Gillian Holroyd, a beautiful and sexy witch, who is frustrated by a lack of romance in her life and is smitten by her handsome neighbor.

February 15-March 10
This soulful musical takes place in a private parlor in Memphis, circa 1930, where sexy and sassy Bessie Smith takes center stage.

February 27-March 9
(A CPH/CWRU MFA Acting program production)
Asks, “who am I” by examining seven lives filtered through the ideas of August Strindberg.

March 22-April 14
Margie Walsh, in this funny 2011 Tony nominee, wants to escape from Southie, a Boston neighborhood where a night on the town means a few rounds of bingo and lots of beer.  She may have found her exit route when an old flame, now a big success, comes back.

April 19-May 22
A take on THE HEIRESS, this comedy about women and their relationships finds a sheltered girl falling in love with a starving artist, but, her mother, a celebrated tough-talking financial guru, doesn’t approve.


216-932-3396 or dobama.org

December 7 - January 6
4000 MILES
A drama concerning 21 year-old Leon, who comes to his feisty, 91 year-old grandmother (portrayed by Dorothy Silver, the Grande dame of Cleveland Theatre) for solace.  In a single month they infuriate, bewilder, and ultimately reach each other.

February 22-March 17
In this comedy/tragedy, Joseph, a distant relative of Kahlil Gibran, author of THE PROPHET, desperately tries to keep his Pennsylvania Lebanese-American family from breaking apart. 


216-241-6000 or go to www.playhousesquare.org.

January 15-27
An outrageous tune-filled musical which tells the story of a trio of uninhibited friends who find themselves on a battered old bus searching for love and friendship in the middle of the Australian outback.

February 5-17
Real life partners/actors/comedians/writers Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn probe what happens when two people in a thirteen-year marriage suddenly decide that “we’re just not that into us.”  (This show is not recommended for children.)

February 5-10
A return visit of the 25th anniversary production of the legendary smash musical based on the Victor Hugo novel.

February 12-17
The wildly popular show, appropriate for all ages, combines makeup, comedy, music and technology.

February 22-March 22
Award winning Joshua Seth returns for a one-man show, called “amazingly captivating,”  featuring laughter, mind-reading and magic.

March 5-17
A musical based on the movie SISTER ACT, tells the story of a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and hides out in a convent!

April 9-21
The amazingly staged World War I story of a horse, a boy and the meaning of loyalty.  A must see experience!  The puppetry and special effects are breathtaking.

216-521-2540 or http://www.beckcenter.org

December 7 - January 6
The comic  book inspired musical of a spunky Depression-era orphan determined to find the parents who abandoned her on the doorstep of a New York City orphanage.

March 1-April 21
The Tony Award-winning pop rock musical that examines a suburban family dealing with the traumatic effects of mental illness.

March 22-April 21
John Guare’s Drama Critics’ and Obie Award winning play about an aspiring songwriter who wants to escape the life he despises and pursue a musical career.


330-374-7568 or go to www.actorssummit.org

January 17-February 3
A drama which centers on two successful writers who are sharp-tongued intellectuals whose passion for life, literature and artful prose leads to asking, “What is real?” and “What is the meaning of truth?”.

February 21-March 10
Investigates a fictional London meeting, on the day England enters WWII, between Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis and C.S. Lewis, the author of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, which cleverly probes God, love, sex, and the meaning of life!

May 16-June 2
A comedy probing male bonding which finds two men hunkered in a man cave preparing for a manimar (seminar), while fearing that they are becoming too sensitive as they practice their tales of manliness.


216-631-2727 or go on line to www.cptonline.org

January 4-February 4
Focuses on humans’ deep connection to water and the local proximity to Lake Erie. Developed through the partnership with Oberlin College, the production incorporates music, dance and other performance forms.

February 21-March 9
Explores past, current movements, and future dreams, in order to highlight the relationship of humans to the ground on which they walk.

March 21-April 6
Reveals secrets of the universe by way of conspiracy theories, group hypnosis, coin flips, narcotic cocktails, idealistic propaganda, cynical detachment, desperate hope, and puppets.

March 21-April 6
The moving tale of one woman’s journey into her own mind and its recovery after a stroke.

May 2-May 18
A portrait of passion, destruction and examination of how love leaves a person shipwrecked, deeply burned and unquenchable.

May 9-25
After engaging in an extreme display of public affection on the lawn of a college campus, two professors must apologize or justify their behavior to students and the college administration.

My 23-June 8
After a pandemic destroys most human life on the planet, one group of Clevelanders look for the way to stay alive.

440-525-7526 or http://www.lakelandcc.edu

February 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16
The 2008 Tony Award-winning musical addresses grieving a loss, suicide, drug abuse, and ethics in modern psychiatry as a mother struggles with her worsening bipolar disorder.


216-321-2930 or http://www.ensemble-theatre.com

January 25-February 17
Probes the tensions between memorIes as two adult African Americans recount their experiences regarding the 1930 racial crimes in Marion, Indiana.

March 7-24 (performed in repertoire)
(COCOPELLI by Stuart Hoffman, LIZARD PLAY by Carol Laursen and ONE ON ONE by Ed Walsh & Robert Noll)

April 19-May 12
Eugene O’Neill’s monumental morbidly funny drama about the homecoming of Hickey, a charismatic traveling salesman, by a group of drunks and dreamers.

http://www.greatlakestheater.org or 216-241-6000

February 22-March 10
A spook-tacular comedy classic about the aftermath of a “spirited” séance gone wrong resulting in a writer coming face-to-face with his dead wife and her disdain for his present wife.

March 29-April 14
Shakespeare’s comic battle of wits and wills which centers on a scorching exchange of insults, and an attempt to save true love.

May 1-19
The American classic musical, based on the “New Yawk” stories of Damon Runyon, with a score by Frank Loesser, that concerns gamblers, the Salvation Army, showgirls, and lots of toe-tapping fun and romance. (Produced by Great Lakes Theatre as part of the Key Bank Broadway series)

To see a composite of the reviews of members of the Cleveland Critics Circle, go to www.clevelandtheaterreviews.com

GROUNDWORKS is superb in Allen premiere

This is the 14th season of GROUNDWORKS, the Cleveland area small dance company which has proven to be a local treasure since its inception.  In its short history the company has commissioned 19 premieres by nationally and internationally acclaimed choreographers, as well as 26 new works by its founder and Artistic Director, David Shimotakahara, and 8 by former dancer and now Artistic Associate Amy Miller.  Its highlight feature is the high level of discipline, purposefulness, and precision instilled by Shimotakahara.

Most of the programs have been excellent, but none has reached the heights of balance of types of works and quality as GROUNDWORKS recent showing at the Allen Theatre.

Starting this season, the company has formed a partnership with Cleveland State University.  This attachment broadens the educational and performance possibilities of GROUNDWORKS and gives the organization a new home, while affording CSU students to work with dance professionals. 

This union does not mean that the company, which often finds itself in non-traditional settings such as Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland Institute of Music, Botanical Gardens, Akron’s Ice House, the main branch of the Akron Summit County Public Library, and Glendale Cemetery, will forgo these venues.  It simply means that they will have a home base and an alliance with one of Ohio’s fastest growing universities and a presence in PlayhouseSquare, one of the area’s premiere arts locations. 

Besides the new partnership and venue, Groundworks introduced its newest dancer, Anika Sheaff (www.annikasheaff.com), a statuesque, well-trained performer whose training with Pilobolus Dance Theater brings a new dimension to the company. 

The program opened with ALLOW, choreographed by Amy Miller.   Much like Miller, the piece showcased power and strength as it explored chaos, coherence and the way people deny and permit themselves to align with others.  Composed of dancers moving alone, yet in the company of others, to the clicking sounds of Alex Christie’s synthesized tones, it featured excellent performances by Felise Bagley, Noelle Cotler, Damien Highfield and Gary Lenington, with the latter performing some exception lifts.

The world premiere of MY HUMMINGBIRD AT THE HIGHLINE, choreographed by the wildly creative Doug Elkins, whose company recently performed FRAULEIN MARIA as part of Dance Cleveland’s offerings, was modern ballet at its finest.  Playful and sexy, it was danced to such divergent works as A Lot of Living To Do and I’ve Got You Under My Skin, to Handel’s Acis and Galatea and  Wainwright’s Dis Quand Reviendra Tu.  Only Elkins could merge such sounds and make the whole thing a delightful blend of joy.

The second act featured two works by Shimotakahara.  Both were outstanding. 

CIRCADIAN was an emotionally draining, disciplined, exquisite piece featuring a captivating performance by Felise Bagley.  She was partnered by Damien Highfield, who gave one of the finest performances.   The choreography, dancing, music of Gustavo Aguilar, and lighting by Dennis Dugan gave new meaning to the interaction between behavior and biology.  Bagley proved yet once again why she is the area’s premiere female dancer.

LIGHTS UP, danced to live jazz music composed and played Howie Smith, Bill Ransom and Dan Wilson, featured solos created by each dancer and Shimotakahara to highlight their performance strengths.  Dancers each had a strong solo culminating in a mash-up conclusion.  The effect of having worked with Doug Elkins was apparent.  The piece resulted in a yelling, well earned standing ovation, bringing an outstanding evening of dance to a close.

Capsule judgement:  Groundworks hit the pinnacle of its existence in their recent performance at the Allen Theatre.  This was an evening of dance that well-earned the joyously strong approval from the enthusiastic audience.  BRAVO!

Next up:  GroundWorks performs at the new MOCA CLEVELAND museum on November 29 at 7:30. This performance will feature the company in multiple locations throughout the building, making use of its transparency, unique spaces and open floor plan.  For information go to http://www.groundworksdance.org