Thursday, June 29, 2017

Preview: Cleveland Israel Arts Connection and Dobama present Israeli Actor Roy Horovitz

It is the purpose of the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection, a program of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, to share the beauty of Israel, deepen Jewish identity, and explore the human condition.  This is done by presenting programs of dance, film, music, literature, the visual arts and theater.

Cleveland Israel Arts Connection’s next offering, in collaboration with Dobama, will be two-one act plays starring Roy Horovitz, performed on the stage at Dobama Theatre from July 13 through 16. 

Horovitz, and excellence in Israeli theatre, have been become synonymous based on his work with Habima, the National Theatre of Israel, and his many appearances in the United States.  He was named “Best Actor” at the International Children and Youth Festival twice and “Best Director” at Cameri Theatre of Tel-Aviv.

The Cleveland Israel Arts Connection program will consist of “My First Sony,” a comedy based on an Israeli book of the same name, which centers on eleven-year old Yotam (Horovitz) who is obsessed with documentation, and records his family and their many conflicts on his tape recorder.  The boy finds himself trying to make sense of his world as it crumbled around him, which gives a glimpse of Israeli life not found in the headlines.

“The Timekeepers,” the other one-act on the program, is a script by American writer, Dan Clancy, that caught on in Israel and has since toured the world in Hebrew and English versions. 
The play gives a different view of the Holocaust.  It tells the story of a conservative elderly Jewish watchmaker and Hans, an outrageous gay German man imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp during World War II. The duo is assigned to repair watches for their Nazi overlords. As they work together, suspicion, prejudice and indifference slowly give way to a touching friendship.

Israel, in spite of its orthodox underpinnings, is the most gay-friendly nation in the Middle East.  Gays and lesbians are integrated in all levels of society from politics to business to the military.  Tel Aviv Gay Pride, attended by 200,000 participants in 2016, is a week-long series of events and is considered by many to be a national holiday. 

Horovitz, an out gay man, has benefited from that liberal attitude.  He has performed “The Timekeepers” at Out-In-Israel, as well as at Gay Pride celebrations in the United States.

Horovitz thinks “the play conveys the full spectrum of human emotions, despite its grim setting.”  He’s “pleased how the play shows that the pink triangle was worn side by side with the yellow star during the Holocaust.”

Horovitz says,” I simply love playing Hans.” His favorite moment in the play is the ending scene, “when we come to learn that there is so much more to him than meets the eye.  I hope it will be a reminder to keep our humanity and sense of humor, even in the darkest times and against all odds.”

“I never knew a play that mentions the gay holocaust,” Horovitz said.  “I thought it was important to remind people there were other minorities in the Holocaust.”  (Side note:  Martin Sherman’s “Bent,” which will be performed by Beck Center next June, is another play about homosexuality from that era.  It follows a group of gay men finding ways to survive Nazi persecution of homosexuals.)

Both “My First Sony” and “The Timkeepers” will be performed in English. 

Cleveland Israel Arts Connection is co-chaired by philanthropist Roe Green and Erica Hartman-Horvitz.  Green stated, “We are thrilled to bring a world-class Israeli artist to town to perform.”

The appearance of Roy Horovitz is the first collaboration between Dobama and the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection, which will be followed up in the summer of 2018 with a production of "On The Grill" by Dror Keren.  That script finds the author revisiting the landscape of his childhood, in the Jezreel Valley, evoking, like the last flickering embers of a fire, a way of life that has all but disappeared from Israeli culture: the kibbutz.

What: “An Evening with Roy Horovitz” @ Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights on July 13 (7:30 pm, 14 (8 pm), 15 (8 pm), 16 (2:30 pm).  Tickets:  $30 for general admission, $25 for Dobama members.  To purchase tickets, visit or call 216-932-3396.  For information on the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection, visit

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Black comedy, “An Impending Rupture of The Belly,” insights at none-too-fragile

Matt Pelfrey is noted for inventing oddball concepts and writing sardonic dialogue. His “An Impending Rupture of the Belly,” now on stage at none-too-fragile, is Pelfrey at his “creative” black comedy best.

Clay Stilts is paranoid.  He constantly worries.  He obsesses about nuclear terrorism, earthquakes, riots, small pox, and impending fatherhood.  If something might happen, he marks it for fear incitement.

Clay is also blessed with a slacker brother, Ray, an unsuccessful musician, who believes that Clay has copped-out by living in the burbs and has a 9 to 5 job.  This, of course, doesn’t stop Ray from mooching off his brother.

Clay’s insecurities are fanned by his co-worker, Eugene, a Trumpite who proudly proclaims his chauvinistic, alpha-male attitudes including beliefs regarding the necessity of a white macho male dominated society, free of gays, blacks and other minorities. 

After numerous verbal confrontations with his neighbor whose dog likes to poop on Clay’s immaculately manicured front lawn, Clay follows Eugene’s advice, takes matters beyond the verbal and attacks the animal.  Of course he does!  That’s what any “macho” male should do to protect his territory.  What follows is an “actual threat” to Clay and his wife.

The script is a perfect metaphor for today’s explosive political climate.  And, though the audience laughs at Clay’s ridiculousness, it is the not taking the Eugenes of this country seriously, that may well have led to Trump’s election.

Sean Derry has pulled it off once again.  none-too-fragile’s production, as has become the trend at this venue, is of high quality.  The pace is enveloping, the laughs nicely keyed, and the ridiculousness kept under control causing a thinking rather than escapist reaction.

Filled with nervous ticks, stammering, darting eyes and rigid posture, Andrew Narten is paranoid-believable as Clay.  

Benjamin Gregorio steals the show as Clay’s doped-out brother, Ray, who appears in dirty tighty-whities, urinates on stage, and rants, while his crazed wide-eyes signal as out-of-control beacons, “danger here.”

Why the costumer didn’t perch a red Trump cap on Eugene is a surprise.  He is a Trump clone presenting message and attitude, complete alternate facts.

Kelly Strand nicely develops Terri, Clay’s wife, as an angel of strength for putting up with her husband’s rantings.

Much to the audience’s delight, Brian Jackson “feys” his way as Doug, the dog owner who has found Clay’s Achilles heel.

Capsule judgement: “An Impending Rupture of the Belly,” which gets a fine production, should be seen by anyone interested in experiencing outstanding acting coupled with a challenging and thought-provoking script.

ATTENTION:  July 7 and 8 @ 4, none too fragile will stage “Sea’s Night,” a special production of “An Impending Rupture of the Belly.”  The theatre is encouraging patrons, family and caregivers of special needs people, including Rett Syndrome, to attend the special performances.  All profits will benefit the Rett Syndrome Research Trust.  (Call the theatre for details.)

For tickets to “An Impending Rapture of the Belly,” which runs through July 8, 2017 at none too fragile theatre, located at 2835 Merriman Road in Akron, call 330-962-5547 or go to

Next up:  none too fragile takes a summer break in its 2017 season for the months or July and August, returning on September 15 with “Last of the Boys,” Steven Dietz’s examination of identities and memories of the past, especially of the Vietnam War.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

“’S Wonderful’ “An American in Paris” at State Theatre

“9 to 5,” “Aladdin,” “Ghost,” “Groundhog Day,” “The Producers,” and “Hairspray” are all Hollywood films that were transformed into Broadway musicals.  Another of that ilk, “An American in Paris,” is on stage at the State Theatre.

Based on the 1951 Academy Award winning film, the stage version, with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and book by Craig Lucas, opened on the Great White Way in April of 2015 and ran until mid-October of 2016.  It won Tony Awards for best choreography, lighting design, scenic design and orchestrations.

With the theme, “A time of hope. A city of dreams. A love story for the ages,” 
“American in Paris A New Musical” is a symphony of music, dance, and special effects.  The stage is a constant blur of ever-changing electronic media, mood enhancing lighting, visually pleasing costumes and artistic dance.  The choreography, created by the brilliant Christopher Wheeldon who also directed the epic, incorporates ballet, jazz and contemporary movements to create a new style and vocabulary of stage movement.
In many ways, “An American In Paris” is an old-fashioned Broadway musical.  Boy meets girl, boy falls in love, girl falls in love, problems cause them to be separated, they come together, and, of course, they will live happily ever after.  But few, if any, traditional musicals have resulted in such an elegant mélange of music, dance and concept as this show.

Jerry Mulligan, an American soldier, decides, following World War II, to stay in France and hone his skills as an artist. 

In Paris, he sees and is smitten by Lise Dassin, a ballet dancer.  He finds out that she is engaged to Henri Baurel, a Parisian aristocrat.  Both Lise and Henri have hidden stories that help form the underbelly of the tale.  To complicate the goings-on, Jerry’s friend, Adam Hochberg, an American who was injured in the war and has also decided to stay in Paris, who is the ballet’s accompanist, also has a crush on the lovely Lise.

Through many twists, turns, revelations and lots of singing and dancing, the tale comes to its logical end with Lise and Jerry coming to the conclusion that “For You, For Me, Forevermore,” “They Can’t Take that Away From Me.”

From its opening expository dance sequence, to the concluding ballet, “An American In Paris: A New Musical,” seamlessly unfolds as a visually compelling production that is breathtaking to watch.

The elegant, artsy projections by 59 Productions create a cityscape of Paris, that makes the smell of baguettes baking, the trickling sound of the meandering Seine River, and the illuminating gaslights of the city live.  The effect is aided by the lighting of Natasha Katz and the scenery and costumes by Bob Crowley.

The orchestrations are both lush and, at times, jazzy.  The musical sounds are full, enhancing the singing and dancing.

The triple threat cast is generally strong.  The petite, lovely, Sara Esty, a Leslie Caron look-alike, who was the understudy for the Broadway run, captivates as Lise. Her dancing, singing and acting are top-notch.  (BTW, her sister, Leigh-Ann plays the roll on Sunday evenings during the Cleveland run).  

Though he sings, dances and performs at a high level, handsome McGee Maddox, is missing the macho-presence that garnered Robert Fairchild a Tony nomination for best actor in a musical.  Maddox’s rendition of “Fidgety Feet” makes sitting calmly in a seat without tapping your toes impossible.

Etai Benson does a nice turn as the piano playing, wise-cracking Adam.  “But Not for Me, sung with Emily Ferranti (Milo) was a strong duet.

Nick Spangler is strong as the sexually conflicted Henri, Lise’s fiancée, who knows that she is Jewish and was hidden by his family during the war while he secretly was in the resistance.  He has a strong singing voice.

Capsule judgement: My Broadway review of “An American In Paris, A New Musical,” stated that it was “a visual, dance-driven Broadway story-telling creation that is gorgeous, enchanting, seamless and sophisticated.” Though I won’t go raise the banner as high for the touring production, I will say that it is a very, very pleasing and “’S Wonderful” evening of theater.

Tickets for An American In Paris A New Musical, which runs through July 9, 2017, at the State Theatre, can be ordered by calling 216-241-6000 or by going to

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Slight “9 to 5” pleases sold-out Porthouse audience

“9 to 5 The Musical” is based on the 1980 comedy film which starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton.  After the success of the movie, which is credited with being the 20th highest grossing comedy film, Parton decided to add music and put the story on stage.

The Broadway production was not a smash success, running less than 150 performances.  After a touring production (which starred Lakewood’s Dee Hoyt), the script is now being performed in the summer and community theater circuit. 

The story line, with a strong women’s rights underbelly, concerns workers at Consolidated Industries who toil for the chauvinistic, ego-maniacal Franklin Hart, Jr. 

Three of the put-upon women are Violet (who has been passed over many times for management positions because she is a woman), Judy (a new employee with no office experience whose husband ran off with a much younger woman) and Doralee (a sexy, married woman, who is the office outcast as the other women assume she is Mr. Hart’s mistress).  Then there is Roz, who, with her hair in a school-marmish bun, owlish glasses and frumpy clothing, perceives she is having a romance with her misogynistic boss.

Violet accidentally puts rat poison in Hart’s coffee.  Hart doesn’t drink the coffee, but finds out what happened, threatens to call the police, the trio captures, kidnaps, and imprisons him in his own house, which has a sling attachment connected to the ceiling. 

While Hart is “away,” Violet takes over the leadership of the company, and much to the delight of the workers, relaxes lots of the rules. With the help of a member of the accounting office she uncovers Hart has been stealing company money.

Of course, as happens in over-blown musical farces, all comes out well in the end, and the company and the audience celebrate with a resounding performance-closing version of “9 to 5.”

The Porthouse production, under the sprightly direction of Terri Kent, is a nice escapist show for the theatre’s target audience.  It’s filled with lots of dancing (well-conceived by Kelly Meneer), fine singing and music (kudos to Jennifer Korecki) and is nicely paced.

Amy Fritsche delights as she creates Violet with the right amount of smartness, competence and sparkle. Her upbeat “Around Here” set a nice tone for showcasing her character.  “One of the Boys,” complete with “jazz hands,” gleefully sounded and looked like it was right out of Bob Fosse’s staging of “Chicago.”

Erin Diroll avoids making Doralee into a Dolly Parton clone and sings and sasses, making the character her own.  Her “Backwoods Barbie” was well performed.

Courtney Elizabeth Brown nicely transitioned from mouse to powerhouse with ease.  Her heartfelt rendition of “Get Out and Stay Out” brought down the house. 

Fabio Polanco was correctly smarmy as Mr. Hart.  He played the chauvinistic cad with over-done farcical glee.

Sandra Emerick (Roz) did what Emerick does so well...created an over the top, beyond-belief character.  Her rendition of “Heart to Hart” stopped the show!

The rest of the strong cast danced and sang with enthusiasm and polish.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: “9 to 5,” which opened Porthouse Theatre’s 49 th season, has neither a great script, nor a wonderful score, but, never-the-less, is an audience pleaser.  The sold out opening night audience was on its feet at the end, screaming and clapping their delight proving once again that Artistic Director Terri Kent knows her intended audience.

“9 to 5” runs until July 1, 2017, at Porthouse Theatre (3143 O'Neil Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, OH, on the ground of Blossom Music Center).  For tickets call 330-672-3884 or go online to  Curtain times are 8 PM Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 PM Sundays. The picnic grounds at Porthouse open 90 minutes prior to curtain time.

NEXT UP: “Ain’t Misbehaving” a sassy, sultry musical celebration about the legendary jazz great, Fats Waller, from July 6-27.

Mesmerizing “How To Be A Respectable Junkie” in world premiere @ Dobama

Newspapers and television are filled with stories of drug overdoses, excessive prescriptions for opioids, and dependency on drugs due to PTSD, pain and depression.  Obituaries note an increasing number of young people dying because of overdosing.  Hands are wrung, mea culpas chanted, and social service centers pontificate, but the siege continues.

Playwright Greg Vovos has been collecting tales about heroin addiction for a number of years.  One story stood out from the narratives he heard.  This account, the experiences of Brian, has been translated into “How To Be A Respectable Junkie,” now being performed in its world premiere at Dobama.

In a one man 90-minute epic, Brian (Christopher M. Bohan), tells the audience his tale.  A story of a “normal” kid who gets exposed to the use of drugs through a friend, progresses to being a junkie, who seemingly cannot get a grasp on overcoming his habit, bounces from respectable white collar employee to going through numerous interventions and rehabs and winds up living in his mother’s basement, a helpless and hopeless shell of a man, contemplating suicide.

We know the complete experience because Brian has made a video of his “advice” to others so they, too, can become respectable junkies.

Bohan, who has given outstanding performances on the Dobama stage in “The Flick,” “Peter and the Starcatcher, “ Slowgirl,” and “The Lyons,” outdoes all his past successes with his portrayal of Brian.

Well-guided by director Nathan Motta, Bohan does not just portray Brian, he is Brian.  There is not a moment that he lets the audience off the emotional hook.  Through the use of humor, pathos, angst and tears, we are under a Bohan-spell.

Vovos’s script is well-conceived.  His narration is worded for clarity and realism.  There could, however, be some tightening in the script, and a shortening of the conclusion, especially the period of time where the actor changes his costume on stage, which causes a stutter in the action and segments the conclusion from the body of the play.

Capsule judgement: “How to Be A Respectable Junkie” is a special evening of theater.  Superb acting, within the confines of a meaningful script, it grabs and holds the audience’s attention.  This is absolute must be seen theater for anyone who goes to be informed, to share in a real experience, to see that there may be light at the end of a tunnel, while observing a master class in acting. 

“How to Be a Respectable Junkie” runs through July 2, 2017 at Dobama Theatre.  Call 216-932-3396 or for tickets.

Next up on the Dobama stage

Jewish Cleveland/Israelarts presents Roy Horovitz, one of Israel’s foremost actors and directors, in his internationally-acclaimed, “My First Sony” and “The Timekeepers,” on July 13-16, 2017. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

“Picasso at the Lapin Agile” less than it should be at Blank Canvas

Want to see a play that has been censored?  No, it’s not “Spamalot,” “The Vagina Monologues,” “Godspell,” or “The Laramie Project” (which, incidentally have all been banned, at one time or another, from the stage).   It’s comedian Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”  Yes, that Steve Martin, the standup comedian, actor, musician (he plays a mean banjo), teacher of comedy and playwright. 

“Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” Martin’s imaginative script about a fictitious meeting between artist Pablo Picasso and scientist Albert Einstein, whose basic topics are the similarities of art and science as a factor in society, anarchy, self-awareness, ego and the forces that will shape the world in the 20th century and beyond. 

In March of 2009, at LaGrande High School in La Grande, Oregon, 137 parents petitioned to have the play shut down before it opened, because of “some of the adult themes and content.”  Martin, while recognizing that some of the "questionable behavior sometimes evident in the play is not endorsed"
he compared the characterization that the play is about "people drinking in bars and treating women as sex objects" to summarizing Shakespeare's Hamlet as being "about a castle." Martin responded to the banning of the play at La Grande High School with an offer to underwrite a production of the play at an alternative location, stating he did not want the play to acquire "a reputation it does not deserve."

The play has another interesting sidebar.  It was not only the first full-length play written by Martin, but at its initial oral reading, which took place at the author’s Beverly Hills, CA home, Tom Hanks read Picasso and Chris Sarandon read Einstein.  How about that for a cast!

It’s October 8, 1904, before Einstein (Robert Kowalewski) is famous for his theory of relativity and Picasso (Roderick Cardwell II) has just started to transition into his cubistic style of painting. 

The setting is the Lapin Agile, a French neighborhood watering hole. 

The duo debate topics such as the values of genius and talent and the cultural influences of the coming century, in the company of an amateur barkeep/ philosopher (Freddy—John Busser), his wife (Germaine—Carla Petroski), a bizarre inventor (Charles Dabernow Schmendiman—Ronnie Thompson), a woman with whom Picasso had an affair (Suzanne--Becca Ciamacco), a bar hanger-on (Gaston—Rich Stimac), a Countess (Britt Will), and an art dealer (Sagot—Greg Mandryk).  The Singer/Elvis Presley (Evan Martin) appears to add another aspect by delving into a musical, unintellectual cultural dimension.

After a lively exchange, Picasso and Einstein come to the conclusion that their abilities are both of value, as is the worth of the entertainer.

The script inspires thought and is filled with humor.  Unfortunately, the production, under the direction of Jonathan Kronenberger doesn’t generate the emotional and logical reaction needed to inspire audience reaction.  The pacing is too languid, the accents confusing and often unnecessary, some performances are on the surface and substitute overdrawn affect for character development.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT:  Comedian Steve Martin has written a thought-provoking, clever script which gets a less than stellar production.  It’s not bad, just not what it could be.

Blank Canvas’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” runs through, June 24, 2017 in its near west side theatre, 1305 West 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland.  Get directions to the theatre on the website. Once you arrive at the site, go around the first building to find the entrance and then follow the signs to the second floor acting space.  For tickets and directions go to

Next up at BC is “Equus” in which Dr. Martin Dysart, a psychiatrist, is confronted with a boy who has blinded six horses in a violent fit of passion. To Dysart it is a psychological puzzle that leads both doctor and patient to a complex and disturbingly dramatic confrontation.  (This show contains adult content and nudity.)  August 11-26, 2017.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

“Rock of Ages” rocks, really rocks, Cain Park

Cain Park’s Alma Theatre is rocking and rolling with the classic up-beat sounds of the ‘80s.  Yes, “Rock of Ages” features the likes of “The Final Countdown,” “Here I Go Again,” “I Wanna Rock,” “High Enough,” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  That’s right, the songs of  Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe.

“Rock of Ages,” based on the 2012 film, is a juke box musical.  It takes songs written before the script was conceived and intersperses them into a less than well-put-together story.   Interestingly, for no apparent reason, the title song, as written by Def Leppard, is not included in the goings-on.

The original stage production, which ranks in the top 30 of the longest running shows in Broadway history, played 2,328 performances.

It’s 1987.  Sherrie Christian (the adorable, sweet-voiced Lauren Ashley Berry), a young, small-town virgin (what would you expect with a name like that?) gets off the bus in Los Angeles, ready to become the next great film star, and is immediately robbed.  Into her life comes her “hero,” the handsome Drew (Shane Lonergan), who works at the Bourbon Room, the fabled West Hollywood club, the home of rock and roll stardom. 

No, Drew is not an R&R star, just a busboy, with stars in his huge doe-like eyes, a guitar in his hands, and a stellar voice which hits long-held high notes and slips nicely into a cool falsetto. 

As happens in these fairy-tale tales, Drew is love-struck, gets Sherrie a job at the club, and it looks like we are headed for a “happily ever-after tale.” 

Oh, come on, we have an hour-and-a-half to fill with songs, so there has to be conflict, chaos, heartbreak and then, a happy ending.

The conflict comes in the form of Hertz Klinemann (the funny, over-the-top Kevin Kelly, complete with very bad accent), who dreams of designing formal wear for pets, but instead is planning on knocking down the Sunset Strip and building an upscale shopping center.  His sidekick is his fey son, Franz (David Turner who lisps and swishes his way through his stage-time).  The duo is eventually foiled by a group of activists, who picket to stop the destruction of the strip.

Meanwhile, our heroine, good girl Sherrie, who fight off of the advances of super-rock god Stacee Jaxx (Connor Bogart O’Brien, not quite reaching the sensual level needed for women to lose their undies over), gets Sherrie fired from the Bourbon Room.  She is taken in by Justice (Trinidad Snider, a wailing momma with a big voice, who almost steals the show).  She runs a strip club. 

In the meantime, the show’s MC (the hysterically funny Douglas F. Bailey, who knows his way around a laugh line and does steal the show), and bar owner Dennis Dupree (smarmy Phillip Michael Carroll) discover they are “in love” and delight while singing “Can’t Fight this Feeling.” 

Lots more goes on, but of course, in the end, our Sherrie hooks up again with the still love-struck Drew and, as is the case with all good juke box musicals, they know “The Search is Over,” kiss their way to “Heaven,” knowing that they will never say, “I Hate Myself for Lovin’ You,” and the entire cast and the audience claps, sings and dances to”Don’t Stop Believing.”

The band (Jesse Fishman, Jeremy Poparad, Tim Keo and Justin Hart), under the leadership of Jordan Cooper, rock.  Yeah, man, they really rock!  

Kevin D. Marr II's creative choreography, is spot on!

Director Joanna May Hunkins has the cast psyched, and, after a slow, often hard to hear first act, and lots of overacting, the assemblage gets focused and lets loose in Act II, earning a screaming final reception.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT:  If you are a fanatic for rock and roll, especially from the genre’s golden age, you will absolutely love “Rock of Ages.”  “Oh Sherrie,” “The Search is Over,” as you’ll think it’s “Just like Paradise” and believe that you are in “Heaven,” having “Nothin’ But a Good Time,“ which is pretty darn good!
The show runs through June 25, 2017 in the Alma Theatre in Cleveland Heights’ Cain Park.   For tickets call 216-371-3000 or go to

Upcoming musical theater events at Cain Park:

August 5 & 6--“The Music Man in Concert,” with Eric Fancher, as Harold Hill, and Nicole Sumlin, as Marian Paroo, in Meredith Wilson’s classic musical.

July 20, 7 PM--The Musical Theater Project presents “For Good:  The New Generation of Musicals,” examines Broadway shows from 2000 until today in narration and song.  Hear selections from “Hamilton,” “1776,” Wicked,” “Book of Mormon” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”

August 10, 7 PM—The Musical Theater Project presents “Luck Be A Lady:  the Songs of Frank Loesser,” a multi-media concert featuring the music of “Guys and Dolls,” “Most Happy Fella,” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

Saturday, June 03, 2017

“Really, Really,” thought provoking, inciting, well-conceived at Beck

In this era where the nation’s leader has displayed chauvinistic attitudes, spoken disrespectfully about women, where sexting is part of the mode of operation of not only politicians but business people, and civil disregard is seemingly a daily incident on airlines and television news, it is not surprising, since art reflects the era from which it comes, that the play “Really Really,” is now gracing the stage at Beck Center.  It is a script and production that will insight much discussion.

To place the play’s spotlight in perspective, it might be helpful to recount the 2006 incident when the members of the Duke University lacrosse team were accused of raping a female student during a party.  Or, the 2012 Steubenville, Ohio situation when a high-school girl was sexually assaulted at a party by some of the school’s football players. 

Paul Downs Colaizzo’s play has similarities with these incidents as it concerns a party, a sexual incident, and an accusation of rape, but it also has a twist that the others didn’t have. 

We meet the remnants of a collegiate apartment party, the morning after.  Obviously, the well-heeled athletes and their guests consumed large amounts of alcohol.  Exact memories of what happened are sparse.  

Vague recollections evolve.  Davis (Daniel Scott Telford) seemingly got “lucky.”  Cooper (Chris Richards), the oldest of the teammates, one of the party’s hosts, who is a hanger-on delaying graduation until the “right” opportunity comes along, may have listened to the bedroom goings-on through a closed door.  Johnson (Jack Schmitt), who was present, wants to study for his up-coming exams and seems uncomfortable with the hijinks of the party. 

In another apartment, after some hesitation, Leigh (Molly Israel) shares with her roommate, Grace (Rachel Lee Kolis), that she was “raped” at the party.   Grace, a national leader of the Future Leaders of America, whose icons are political conservatives including Ted Cruz, Ronald Reagan and Phyllis Schlafly, supports Leigh’s reporting the incident to the University.

Jimmy (Randy Dierkes), Leigh’s wealthy boyfriend, who is on the same athletic team as the party holders, but was not at the get-together, finds out about the incident and goes to confront Davis.  Leigh’s sister, Hayley (Olivia Scicolone), arrives to supposedly support her sister.  

Questions abound, both about the story and the generation which these young people represent.

•Did Leigh try to fend off Davis?  •Did Cooper actually hear Leigh say, “No” and “Stop,” or is he an agreeable witness trying to insure a prize position in Jimmy’s dad’s business.  •Did Leigh set up the entire scenario?  •Was Leigh trying to get back at Davis for rejecting her when they were freshmen?  Was Jimmy her fallback guy to insure her dream of the perfect (wealthy) husband and perfect (financially abundant) life? Is the purpose of Haley’s “trailer-trash” character present to illustrate what Leigh is trying to escape from? 

•Do those of Generation-I (also referred to as GenZ, Gen Me, and Centennials), who are the first of citizenry born with the Internet and were taught to be individualistic, generally operate on the mind-set that it is their right and responsibility to impose their will and desires on others?  •Do Gen-I males believe that they can talk and bluster with no consequences?   •Do Gen-Iers, both male and female, think/feel it is their privilege to get what they want from life, no matter what they have to do to achieve their nirvana?  •Can there be more than one conclusion reached based on the same set of “facts” and observations?

“Really Really,” under the focused direction of Don Carrier, is fascinating.  The show is well-cast, nicely paced, gets the required laughs and gasps, and grabs and holds the audience’s attention.  There is no acting going on, just realistic portrayals of real people, speaking understandably in natural language.

Scenic designer Cameron Caley Michalak has effectively shoe-horned a multi-setting play into Beck’s compact Studio Theatre.  His use of a small turntable makes for efficient location changes.  Trad A Burns’ lighting design aids in setting the right moods. 

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: “Really Really” is “murder” mystery without a dead body, but still asks, “Who did it?”  The cast is well-selected and each person effectively textures their role.  The result is a production which sparks with intensity, sucking the viewer into an experience which is edgy, shocking and thought-provoking.  It’s a must see for anyone interested in thoughtful and well-conceived theater.

“Really, Really” runs at Beck Center for the Arts until July 2, 2017.  For tickets and information call 216-521-2540 or go on line to