Carpenter Square Theatre has outdone itself with its current production of “Something Intangible” by Bruce Graham. Director Linda MacDonald has given us a tightly constructed and delicately interwoven story that draws us in and carries us along on a funny and often evocative emotional roller-coaster.
Loosely based on the lives of brothers Walt and Roy Disney, “Something Intangible” traces the progress of animation genius Tony Wiston (played by Joe DiBello) as a gifted artist with seriously limiting personality quirks. His brother Dale (Craig Pruitt) seeks psychological counseling to deal with the twists and turns of managing the Wiston empire—which for Dale, means trying to rein in the outrageous spending of his brother. The excellent script, as performed by this cast, is rendered by turns touching, informative, thoughtful, and hilarious.
Pruitt and DiBello are very convincing brothers; they give us a nuanced and detailed relationship that includes the kinds of denial and reinvention where damaged people often take refuge. Dale, struggling with his own personal troubles, makes every effort to avoid the self-deceit about family history, even as he recognizes that Tony can’t or won’t.
John Q. Wilson is very deft as the dentist/financier Doc Bartelli who often invests in Tony’s visions, but who wants more of the commercially successful cartoons for kids and less of the risky artistic work that Tony longs to produce. Ginger Gilmartin-Smith as Dr. Sonia Feldman personifies the woman psychoanalyst of the 1930s and 40s—a competent and intelligent person forced to struggle with both sexism and chronic misconceptions of her profession. Brilliant and barely closeted young artist Leo Baxter, beautifully played by C.W. Bardsher, shows us how the homophobic bigotry and anti-Semitism of Hollywood affected so many young artists and performers. Famous conductor Gustav Von Meyerhoff is flamboyantly portrayed by Terry Veal, in one of his most effective recent roles. Veal’s shifting accent (Italian? Austrian?) underscores the manipulative nature of the character.
In the confined space that CST currently calls home, designers and directors face a serious challenge in building a world for the audience. MacDonald, working with designer James Polk Wilson and CST artistic director Rhonda Clark, has created a detailed and coherent world that moves seamlessly from past to present, from Tony’s Hollywood office to Dr. Feldman’s consulting room, from press events to private screenings. The very fine performances, the thoughtful direction, the clear and painterly design all combine to bring us inside the strange and crazy world of animated motion pictures just before and during WWII. We come to respect, appreciate, despise and laugh at these two men and their world. While not claiming to be a true “biography,” this play and this delightful production of it give us a direct insight into the world of Walter E. and Roy O. Disney and the creation of such masterpieces as “Fantasia.”
“Something Intangible” plays through June 8 at Carpenter Square Theatre, 800 W. Main, Oklahoma City. Shows are at 8:00 Friday and Saturday, 7:30 on Thursday evenings, and one Sunday matinee at 2:00 on June 2. Visit the website at www.carpentersquare.com or call 405-232-6500 for tickets.
This world premiere of a new play based on Henry Fielding’s immense tome, “The History of Tom Jones—a founding” gives us a well constructed story beautifully produced and performed by a talented and energetic cast, creatively directed by Tyler Woods, Reduxion’s Artistic Director. The script is by Erin Woods, who also serves as Managing Director, and this marks the first time that the couple have collaborated in this particular way.
This is not stodgy classical theatre, and if you are offended by sex or nudity, this show is probably not for you. The racy and racing story, reduced from Fielding’s 1749 novel, follows the ingenuous title character through a series of sexual escapades in his quest to find his heritage and his true love Sophia—who, as an embodiment of perfection and virtue, never has sex with anybody.
Fielding’s novel contains over 340,000 words with many pages of social commentary. Erin Wood’s adaptation of the novel for the stage has kept the essential elements of the story, with perhaps a few extra bits as well. Given how much of Fielding’s material Erin Woods was forced to cut, it is understandable that the result is long. Every episode is spritely, amusing, titillating, and informative, although not all of them are truly needed to advance the main story line.
Tyler Woods has given us a modernist version of 18th century England. The rich costumes (by designer Hanna Matter) have occasional fluorescent accents, the incidental music is derived from the Welsh singer Tom Jones (who took his stage name from the novel), and the actors are occasionally literally in the laps of the audience. The production quite successfully re-creates, in its own style, the rambunctious atmosphere of a period public house on the road from Somerset to London.
Rodney Brazil, in wonderful period form, sets the tone and literally shapes the evening as Fielding himself, narrating the story and commenting on life, the universe, and everything. Rett Terrell as Tom carries the show very ably, giving the lusty young man a certain naiveté that allows us to like him even as he demonstrates that, while charming and devoted, he is certainly not faithful in any physical sense.
Kris Schinske is a delightfully petulant and wicked Lady Bellaston, and Paul James is the very soul of good-hearted respectability in Squire Allworthy. Todd Clark is the energetic Squire Western, fiercely loving father of the virtuous Sophia (Suzanne Stanley) who is also willful and playfully charming. Jennifer Wells is splendid as the impertinent maid Honour, who accompanies Sophia when she runs away from an arranged marriage. David Fletcher-Hall is leeringly amusing as Partridge, who is initially suspected of being Tom’s father and later helps Tom find his real father and birthright. Each of these talented performers also plays other roles in the show; Stanley doubles as a housekeeper and as music director, James is a charming highwayman, and Schinske also plays the sister of Squire Allworthy. Clark and Fletcher-Hall are both extremely talented musicians, and they provide or accompany most of the incidental music throughout the show and during the intermission, occasionally with Stanley on keyboard. Stanley, also a fine singer, is joined by Jenna Connor, Holly McNatt, and Wells in some very effectively placed songs from the work of 1960s pop singer Tom Jones.
Ian Clinton plays two of the pettier villains of the show and does them both effectively and with distinctly different kinds of vice. Holly McNatt gives us both a lusty, good-hearted woman and a matronly innkeeper; Brayden Richardson a pastor and a city fop; Jenna Connor a gamekeeper’s daughter, an innkeeper’s daughter and a less-than-faithful merchant’s wife; Scotty Taylor as a corrupt but eventually penitent philosopher and the cuckolded merchant. Perhaps the most fun is had with Brett Young, who plays Sophia’s aunt and a female innkeeper with an eye to the ogling Mr. Partridge.
The show is a three-hour romp, and if it keeps its opening night pace, the length is no hardship. There are slower moments, and the story occasionally takes a detour which, though great fun, may distract from the arc of the tale, but it always come back to its main line.
The environments in the show are created almost entirely with minimal props and furnishings, designed by Catherine Pitt, which are placed on a wooden floor painted as the British flag. Ciera Terry’s lighting design is beautifully atmospheric. Fletcher-Hall was credited in the curtain speech as diction coach, and he had his work cut out for him. The earnest efforts of the cast to keep the Somerset and London accents—both educated and working class—distinct from one another does not quite come off, although the effort was worth making.
This is a long, rowdy and fun evening of theatre and it’s definitely worth the time. Warning: Breasts and buttocks are occasionally visible, and explicitly sexual behavior may be seen and heard throughout the evening. It is not recommended for children.
“History of Tom Jones: a foundling” runs at Reduxion’s The Broadway Theatre, 1613 N. Broadway in Oklahoma City, through May 25, with performances at 8:00 on Thursday through Saturday nights and two Sunday Matinees at 2:00 on May 12 and 19. For tickets, call 405-651-3191 or visit the Reduxion website at www.reduxiontheatre.com.
Shock & Awe certainly describes “Avenue Q” at the Pollard Theatre in Guthrie. Ending the season called ‘Choices’ with a controversial hit always gives the public a sock in the ‘shockal pleasus’ and “Avenue Q” is no exception. “Avenue Q” is based on an original concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx who are also responsible for the Music and Lyrics. The book by Jeff Whitty gives the clarification the creators need as the set up for the show is very confusing on the surface. On the stage, however, there is no confusion, particularly in the hands of the competent and brilliant director, W. Jerome Stevenson.
“Avenue Q” has been called a cross between South Park and Sesame Street. The actors carry puppets, although the actors are not hidden, so this is not a puppet show. The puppets were originally conceived and designed by Rick Lyon and created by Dallas Costume Shop. The puppets (some of whom are monsters similar to Cookie Monster and others) recall our childhood adoration of Sesame Street. However, “Avenue Q” has not been authorized or approved by the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop which have no responsibility for content. That does not necessarily mean that Jim Henson is not smiling somewhere.
To enact the story, the actors are wearing black and carrying the puppets with them. Their faces and thus expressions are visible to the audience. Some of the roles are double cast, and so, occasionally an actor will manipulate a puppet where another actor is speaking the lines as he manipulates a different puppet and delivers those lines in character. A daunting task for Stevenson to clarify on stage and he does so with a remarkable cast of musical theatre genius.
The story line is universal. The difficulties young people encounter as they first step out in the world with their academic and parental ties essentially severed are told in “Avenue Q” with a very modern and somewhat disarmingly offensive take. They are finding their way in the world, and losing their way in life.
The characters are portrayed and operated by a cast of 7 actors and 2 ensemble operators. Three of the characters do not use puppets, although they interact naturally with them. Brian who dreams of a comedic career is played marvelously by Doug Ford. His lady, Christmas Eve, a social psychologist in need of establishing a good client base, is played outstandingly by Cristela Carrizales. The superintendent is Gary Coleman, the former child star and is played by JaLeesa Beavers. Beavers does not try to be Coleman, thusly, she is Coleman. These three are tremendous singers and actors and have excellent rapport with the puppet characters, each other and the audience.
The puppeteer/actors are Lane Fields as Princeton and Rod, Gwendolyn Evans as Kate Monster, Lucy & others, Jared Blount as Nicky, Trekkie Monster, Bear & others and Crystal Ecker as Mrs. T., Bear & others. Joshua McGowen and Timothy Stewart round out the ensemble puppeteer cast as assistant manipulators. Fields and Evans are excitingly talented in the musicality and action, while Blount and Ecker reflect excellence in supporting roles. Stewart is also Properties Master and Blount is also responsible for the great Video Animation Design.
As an example of excellence, Evans’ moment of shared triumph in acting occurs when she is onstage as Lucy, manipulating that puppet, while Kate Monster is also on stage. Evans voices both characters, but Ecker is manipulating Kate for the scene. Because the puppet actors faces are revealed one could see the face of Ecker as Lucy. Crystal Ecker and Gwendolyn Evans are both exceptionally talented brunette actresses. However they are quite different in appearance and could normally not be mistaken for one another. Yet, in those moments, Ecker looks exactly like the character of Kate. Incredible! Similarly difficult achievements are effortlessly performed by Fields and Blount.
Musical Director Todd S. Malicoate conducts an excellent band which dovetails nicely with Stephenson’s direction and concepts. There is not space enough to list each musicians name, but they perform beautifully as a unit in accompaniment to the excellent voices resounding through the theatre.
The show can be considered offensive to some. Young people starting out often behave in a manner which is offensive, because they find that offending seems to make their point. In some cases, offensive material can dilute the point, and some members of the audience seem to feel that way, however, every audience member can only be astounded by the musicality and tremendous acting these roles require. Interestingly, the division is not generational, it is according to personal temperament.
Patrons should arrive prepared for possible ‘offense’ and able to appreciate the performance as it stands. Those who feel unequal to witnessing explicit scenes between puppets should stay away, however, “Avenue Q” never descends to the level of daytime television, so, think carefully before aligning with a specific group. Well, of course, there is that one scene, that superbly executed scene, that appallingly delightful scene that one should never see in the presence of their mother.
Buy mom flowers, but take your date to “Avenue Q” showing through May 18, 2013 at the Pollard Theatre in downtown Guthrie. The curtain rises at 8pm so visit www.thepollard.org for tickets or contact the box office at 405-282-2800. No regrets with this shock and awe production of “Avenue Q” at the Pollard!
by guest blogger Joshua McGowen
When you were a child you learned your values every morning by visiting Sesame Street. Where is that kind of instruction for adults? Now there is a new street in town that will do just that. AVENUE Q is the international smash-hit musical about growing up, as told by a cast of people and puppets in a hilariously irreverent musical that combines Sesame Street with South Park. The Tony Award winning musical comes to The Pollard Theatre April 26th – May 18th and is the final production of the company’s 26th Season, “Choices.”
Winner of the 2004 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book, AVENUE Q remains one of New York’s hottest tickets and most original shows in recent memory. Using risque humor, and maintaining human/puppet interaction in an homage to its inspiration, AVENUE Q is a musical treat filled with equal parts jaw dropping adult humor and good old fashioned heart.
Director Stevenson promises Pollard audiences a rare treat but warns that AVENUE Q is not for everyone. “This show has been on our wish list since it debuted on Broadway and has been so popular because at its core it’s rooted in the Sesame Street model: the idea of using puppets as a teaching tool. To be sure, the lessons in AVENUE Q are best suited for adults. Don’t let the puppets fool you—this is not a show for children. If a show can offend you this one probably will, but when it ends many people will relate to it because they’ve been there, and it feels like you’ve gone back with these familiar characters from your youth. It manages to be wildly hysterical and warm-hearted at the same time,” explains Stevenson.
The Pollard Theatre Company has assembled a powerhouse cast which includes Lane Fields as PRINCETON and ROD, Jared Blount as NICKY and TREKKIE MONSTER, Gwendolyn Evans as KATE MONSTER and LUCY THE SLUT, Crystal Ecker as MRS. T., Cristela Carrizales as CHRISTMAS EVE, Doug Ford as BRIAN and JaLeesa Beavers as GARY COLEMAN. The cast also includes Timothy Stewart and Joshua McGowen. The Pollard’s Artistic Director, W. Jerome Stevenson, directs this highly anticipated production which will feature musical direction by Todd Malicoate, scenic design by James A. Hughes, costume design by Michael James and property design by Timothy Stewart. Based on puppets originally conceived and designed by Rick Lyon, The Pollard production features puppets created by Dallas Costume Shop. AVENUE Q has music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and book by Jeff Whitty, based on an original concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx.
Tickets for AVENUE Q are $25, with senior, military and student discounts available. Student rush tickets are available one hour before the show for $10 cash, with student ID. Performances are April 26 through May 18, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Thursdays (May 9 and 16) at 8:00 pm and Sundays (May 5 and 12) at 2:00 pm. Tickets are available online at www.thepollard.org, by phone at (405) 282-2800, or at the Pollard Theatre box office at 120 W. Harrison Ave., Guthrie, Oklahoma.
If AVENUE Q can teach anything, it’s to remember that everything in life is only for now.
Some of OKC’s best popular acting talent has come together to present “Southern Baptist Sissies” by Del Shores, best known for his play “Sordid Lives.” The dinner theatre production at The Boom in Oklahoma City, directed by Kenneth Benton, plays to sympathetic houses.
Shores’s play examines the self-hatred experienced by four gay men growing up in a Southern Baptist congregation in Dallas. The harsh critique of southern church traditions is focused on the kind of preaching that damages gay boys and men. This production is timely; not only was it recently revived in New York, but articles in HuffPost Religion have dealt with the question of whether certain forms of preaching are also forms of bullying.
The audiences at The Boom experience an environment where couples of any combination of genders can hold hands and interact comfortably. The audience is composed equally of those who can see how the show exposes the suffering of gay men raised in conservative congregations and those who can see the show as a reflection of their own lived experiences. Because the performance venue is in a bar, the audience is restricted to those over 21. This is just as well, since there is graphic sexual language, some nudity, and Sean Eckart as a delightfully active male stripper. Be prepared to have your assumptions about growing up gay in church, especially in the south, challenged or affirmed…or both.
In the narrative and coordinating role of the angry cynic Mark, Scotty Taylor ably carried much of the show. Jason McKelvy was strongly effective as TJ, a gay Christian holding on to denial with his fingernails. Doug Rankin was stunning as Benny, the lip-synching drag queen living in a (mostly) satisfying fantasy. Kaleb Bruza was movingly brilliant as the conflicted and fragile Andrew.
These four boys, whom we follow from pre-pubescence to adulthood, are influenced by the Preacher, rendered with pompous sincerity by Paul James, and their Mothers, who are all played distinctly by Courtney Hahne. Punctuating the events in the lives of the boys are the conversations of the two barflies, Odette and Peanut, rendered with richly alcoholic pathos by Lilli Bassett and Robert Matson. Eventually all of these lives intersect, with inevitably damaging results.
The second half of the play predictably manipulates the sympathies of the audience, and the ending can only feel contrived. Shores is apparently unwilling to hold on to the tough, ugly parts of life or to let us live with unresolved grief. The desperate effort to reach for hope out of misery at the end of the play is poorly structured and inevitably falls short, despite a herculean effort by the director and his able cast to keep it real and make it live.
For many, this flaw will not matter: those affected by the reality of abusive theology need the hope this production offers. The show offers clear insights into how traditional Christianity is experienced by gay boys and men; families may want to see the show for a deeper understanding of the gay men in their lives.
The technical limitations of the stage are used very effectively. Dark areas allow for simulated sex acts to seem both real and furtive—highlighting the shame that drives much of the action. At times the sound score overpowers the preacher, which makes following his sermons difficult.
“Southern Baptist Sissies” is running Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. through April 27 at The Boom, 2218 NW 39th Street, Oklahoma City. Tickets are $15 and can be reserved at www.tarsplace.com or purchased at the door. No one under 21 can be admitted to the performance venue.
In today’s complicated world it is great fun to step back in time to the complications of another era. Melodrama. Heightened Emotion. A very nasty villain. A beautiful damsel in distress. A not very bright hero. These are the essential ingredients of melodrama. So Jewel Box Theatre presents “Dirty Work On The Trail, Or, Go Slow with the Pony Express” by Robert Swift. The program presents us with a Remarkable Aggregation of Illustrious Actors In The Spectacular Dime Novel Drama. The Jewel Box Theatre is staging the extravaganza through May 5, 2013 and they are doing so with all the aplomb and certainty one expected in the 19th century. It comes as no surprise that we have not outgrown the lure of the melodrama which enables us to entertain emotions in the raw form that release often requires. The more sophisticated audience of today, however, is also drawn to the humor ingrained in the melodrama on a far more subtle level.
To accomplish this Jewel Box has drawn on the talents of Jay Prock who, in addition to designing the action of the drama has designed, painted and executed elegant and lavish scenic effects. Mendy Kane keeps the whole kit n’ caboodle under some semblance of control and choreographers Morgan Smith and Derek Flowers give the whole thing the out of control appearance that is so exciting. Exceptional costumes by Christopher Sieker and props by Julie Prock bring the action to life.
The play takes place during the days of the Pony Express and the place in the old west is the relay station in Carson City Nevada. The resplendent activities are revealed by the ‘illustrious’ actors beginning with Carol McDonald as the Widow Mentary, the wheezy proprietress of the relay station, and her lovely but talentless daughter, Ella Mentary, played by Rachel Conn. Ella Mentary may not be talented and it takes a great deal of poise as well as talent from Conn to make her so real and amusing. McDonald leaves us unsure about whether her cough stems from the dust created by the galloping riders or the spirits she serves and does so entertaingly. Christine Harris is delightfully devious as Felicia Da Flea, a human Venus fly-trap. Harris vamps with the greats of yesterday from Langtree to Bernhardt. Marisa Skube as Melba Loveless is the perfect example of a woman scorned. Alex Prather is the young cowboy and potential Pony express rider called Ned Sterling playing the perfect lovelorn bumblehead anxious to win his love by impressing her with his inconsiderate skills.
And the Villain? For the excess in dirty deeds, director Prock had to look no further than David Palmer to play the clever cad, Pugsley MoonQuake with the twirling moustaches. It is amazing how an actor can give the illusion of twirling his moustache when he has both hands in the till! Dana Palmer is the wealthy, husband hunting Astabula Hugankiss, and her delectable performance is exquisitely funny. Jennie Linck is Annie, her servant, and she is the only one who seems to know what is going on! Kyle Anderson as the stagecoach driver Foghorn Redburn is wonderful as he takes no sass, but keeps everyone in line (he thinks) and sets up the action for the audience. Larry Harris is Pony Bill and Pony Bob, David Burkhart is Calamity Joan, Katie Hardin is Paloma Palomino and Morgan Smith, Bailey Smith and Stuart Brand round out the cast.
The show is hysterical and the actors deserve no rotten tomatoes! “Dirty Work on the Trail Or, Go Slow With the Pony Express” is but the first act! The second act consists of the Olio Acts, a Musical and Comedy Revue that is heady and entertaining. The players consist of the entire cast with many additional supernumeraries that space does not allow mentioning in person. It becomes apparent in this act that Ella Mentary may not be able to sing but Rachel Conn certainly carries a tune as does everyone else. There are no single stars in this ensemble cast, but there is a galaxy of laughs in this melodrama and variety show.
Come one, come all, and no one needs to stop for any ‘elixer’ to enjoy this sort of thing (if you like this sort of thing) because, if you don’t, you will! “Dirty Work on the Trail Or, Go Slow With the Pony Express” plays through May 5, 2013 with an 8pm curtain Thursday through Saturday and a Sunday 2:30pm matinee. For tickets ring up the box office at 405-521-1786 or, if the bad guys have cut the wires, go wireless at www.jewelbox.org. The Jewel Box is located in the First Christian Church, 3700 N. Walker in Oklahoma City.
For the past several years the Oklahoma City Theatre Company has been hosting the Native American New Play Festival. This year’s production is “Chalk in the Rain” by playwright and novelist Bret Jones. The Festival provides opportunities specifically for Native American writers, directors and actors and is a very important part of the creative process. Often, a new play needs to be seen and heard before the final adjustments are made, as Broadway success stories often open first in Connecticut.
“Chalk in the Rain” is a heart-wrenching although not heart-warming story about a young Native American woman who returns to the school and orphanage where she made her home as a teen. Four years later, as a successful broadcast journalist, she is helping out the school by hosting a radio-thon fundraiser to keep the school open. As she arrives, she is bombarded by the memories of her time as a student, her warm relationship with the headmistress, her best friend and her first love. The story is universal, it is not a happy memory, and the tragedy manifests through a series of flashbacks.
“Chalk in the Rain” is authored by Bret Jones and is one of many plays and novels by the author. Jones is Director of Theatre at Wichita State University. He has a M.A. in Drama and a PH.D. In Education from the University of Oklahoma. Jones has submitted from the first Native American New Play Festival since its inception in 2010, and was a finalist with “War Paint”. In 2011, Jones again became a finalist with “An Inside Strait” and last year, “Chalk in the Rain” was part of the staged readings segment of the Festival. “War Paint” and “Kindred” have won the Garrard Playwriting Award sponsored by The Five Civilized Tribes Museum,
Carly Conklin directs “Chalk in the Rain” and takes excellent advantage of the space available at City Space. Conklin has many directing credits, but debuts her talent as a director with this production. Paul Mitchell is Stage Manager and Assistant Director enhancing Conklin’s abilities.
The cast consists of several Native Americans with significant theatrical experience. Rachel Morgan plays Melea Tiger, the young journalist returning to assist her alma mater. She is making her debut for OKCTC and will be a featured player in future productions.
Misty Red Elk plays Ms. Sandra Hayes the kindly, but somewhat overwhelmed headmistress. Her performance is slightly too hesitant, but the script for “Chalk in the Rain” demands hesitancy. Jeremy Tanequodle is Colin Fowler, the young man who broke the heart of Melea, and continues to break her heart as he attends her interviews for the upcoming broadcast. Tiffane Shorter is Angelina Bible, the only cast member appearing solely in Melea Tiger’s flashbacks. Her performance is strong enough for her presence to be felt significantly in the present by the other characters, and of course, the audience.
“Chalk in the Rain” plays through April 20, 2013, and this weekend will include the performance of “Sparrow” a commemoration of the Oklahoma bombing by Vicki Lynn Mooney. Tiffany Tuggle Rogers will perform. Additionally the Festival will present several staged readings from other submissions this weekend and promises to be a very interesting and entertaining event for Oklahomans learning more about the culture that shapes our state.
For information and tickets about “Chalk in the Rain” or “Sparrow” as well as any other events visit www.okctc.org or call 405-297-2264 which is the number for the Civic Center Box Office. City Space is a small space so be sure and reserve tickets. The Civic Center Music Hall is located in downtown Oklahoma City, and parking is available in several locations. The City Space Theatre is on the lower level.
“My Name is Asher Lev” first an excellent novel by acclaimed author Chaim Potok and now also a play adaptation from playwright Aaron Posner is being produced through April 27, 2013 at Carpenter Square Theatre. Director Rhonda Clark brings an innate understanding of artistic integrity and conflict to the cast of three superior actors.
The story is centered on a highly talented young artist in Brooklyn. The parents of Asher Lev are loving Hasidic Jewish parents, but religion and art can conflict. Asher Lev’s struggle to overcome his natural reticence and rebel against the beliefs of his parents is profound. But his success at maintaining his personal faith and moral position without fear makes the play engaging to any audience.
Clark brings an excellent cast to the production. Craig Musser, a graduating senior from OU’s prestigious School of Drama is making his Carpenter Square Theatre debut as Asher Lev and his performance is fresh and remarkably good. The role of his father, Aryeh Lev is taken by Ben Hall who creates a heartwarming character for the father. Also, Hall portrays Yitchok Lev with a definitive yet subtle difference. The multiple roles also include The Rebbe and Jacob Kahn. Hall is brilliant in each role and brings a separate distinction in each character with only a slight assist in costume. TooToo Cirlot also has multiple roles, that of Asher Lev’s mother, Rivkeh Lev, Anna Schaeffer and Rachel. Her performances are equally diverse in character development. The program confirms what the eyes cannot quite fathom: there are only three cast members in this play!
Clark’s thoughtful set design enhances the production and with the assistance of James Polk Wilson with set and lighting, A’Mari Jo Rocheleau as Stage Manager and Jaefinn Carr as Production Assistant, “My Name is Asher Lev” is an excellent production that should not be missed. Carpenter Square Theatre has been producing wonderful theatre in Oklahoma City since being founded over 30 years ago, and this production is a perfect example of why Carpenter Square is such a success in the community. The contributions of these actors in this production illustrate an important contribution to central Oklahoma in culture as well as entertainment.
Gracing the lobby for Carpenter Square is artist Okal Silver. Her work is multi-media abstraction and is sold through MtnWoman Silver Studio. The work is excellent and sets a mood for a play about an artist beautifully.
“My Name is Asher Lev” can be seen at Carpenter Square Theatre located at 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City and runs through April 27. Contact the box office at 405-232-6500 for tickets or check on line at www.carpentersquare.com. This is one show that will entertain, educate and delight all audiences.
African Americans have made great strides in the struggle to gain equality and respect within their communities and they can be very proud of their achievements today. Yet, the work is not complete and the attitudes of the mid-twentieth century can still shape the experiences faced today. In “Fences” the Pulitzer Prize winning play by August Wilson, the obstacles of this time are visible with heart wrenching clarity. “Fences” takes place over several years beginning in 1957 and traces the life of Troy Maxson, a man conflicted about his inability to overcome the obstacles of his youth and certain that his children cannot. The play has an obvious lesson for the period but rough terrain remains in the present. Within the text of “Fences” subtle lessons that still must be learned are visible and extremely important.
The Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church undertakes to present “Fences” through April 28, 2013. Tinasha LaRaye is the vibrant young director who has assembled a terrific cast of talented actors to bring to life the characters in the Maxson circle of family and friends. Brian C. Scott is Troy Maxson and his performance is powerful in his anguish. Janice Francis Smith is wife Rose, and her interpretation is soft and lovely, yet sometimes hard to hear. Robert Jamerson is teenage son Cory and he delineates the difference between what he must first overcome—his father—and what his father could not overcome distinctively. KJ Rhodes as the eldest son Lyons, has an even more difficult task in developing the slight distinctions he faces and he carries his role with great aplomb. J. Lamont Thomas is family friend Jim Bono, and his role is portrayed with great sensitivity. Josiah Overstreet plays Gabriel, Troy Maxsons brother, disabled and confused from war injuries, yet with a wisdom all his own. Maya Banks is delightful as the young daughter, Raynell.
Every single actor in this production displays flashes of brilliance that reach out to grab the audience and shake them from their complacency. Unfortunately the characters do not mesh together well leaving gaps in the seams and gaping rents in the scenes. After the first weekend of performance the gaps should mend naturally. The hope in “Fences” should not be lost and with a little work on the flow, the play will have a great deal more relevancy.
The sets are, as usual for Poteet, delightful and the technical presentation is flawless. LaRaye shows great potential as a director, and each and every actor in this production creates wonderful, if separate characters.
The Poteet Theatre is located on the lower level of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City. “Fences” can be seen through April 28th and the curtain rises at 8pm Thursday through Saturday evenings with a Sunday 3pm matinee. For ticket information visit www.poteettheatre.com or call 405-609-1023.
Gloriously overdone!’ … ‘as it should be’… ‘Oscar Wilde isn’t dated at all’ … ‘it’s just as funny now’ … ‘too funny, excuse me! Woops’ ‘he’s so delightfully homely’ … ‘that little girl certainly has a look that brooks no argument’ … etc. It is said that eavesdroppers never hear well of themselves but they certainly hear a lot of great comments at the intermission for “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Oklahoma City University. This play is a favorite for OKCU and is the fifth production over the 90 years that the drama school has brought great entertainment to Central Oklahoma. “The Importance of Being Earnest” also celebrates the new ‘Wall of Honor’ gracing the Burg Theatre lobby with photos of exceptionally talented and successful graduates.
Directed by Lance Marsh, veteran OKCU professor, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is also a collaboration between OKCU, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park and City-Rep. The collaboration brings in the professional guidance and experience from the Oklahoma theatre community that provides students with excellent examples of fortitude, concentration and talent. The plan works well for all three entities. Many of the cast members are young students. Many of them are far more experienced. Some of them are successful actors able to make a career in the arts. The result is a professional quality show at all levels that serves to entertain and delight.
Marsh brings the best of the best to the forefront in working with this excellent cast and crew. The first thing that jumps out is the incredibly beautiful set by Scenic Designer Jack Yates. Costume Designer Robert Pittenridge understands the human body perfectly and each costume is a work of art that moves with the actor like a second skin and gives the actors the necessary comfort to concentrate solely on their performance. Sound Designer Jeffrey R, Sherwood and Lighting Designer Kathryn Eader create the exactly perfect mood for “The Importance of Being Earnest” as well. Stage Manager, Steve Emerson synchronizes beautifully with Student Stage Manager Jessica McCoy to enhance the mood of the show and ensure smooth technical expertise.
With all of the elements of a perfect show in place, all of the actors stepped up to their marks to meet the time-honored commitment of entertainers—perfection. Michael Jones is Lady Bracknell. He incorporates just the right amount of femininity into his characterization with celebration, and he uses his facial expressions with the most delightful coloration. His performance brings the exact amount of realism to make the ridiculousness of the character believable and therefore hilarious. Jones, a member of Actors Equity Association, comes to the show from CityRep where he is Artistic Associate.
Andi Dema is John (Jack) Worthing. Dema is a BFA graduate of Oklahoma City University and his talent is revealed in spades as he brings the importance of being earnestly involved into his characterization. Hunter Paul is Algernon Moncrieff. Paul is a Junior BFAA from Owasso, Oklahoma and has a clearly bright future in the craft. The two of them complement each other perfectly with just the right amount of man about town and fop that ranges from very funny to delectably amusing.
Kathryn McGill is the perfect Miss Prism. She comes to the production from Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park where she is Artistic Director. Her expertise in making the moment count comes from her long history in theatre where she never ceases to astound her audience. Renee Lawrence plays Gwendolyn Fairfax. She is a candidate member in Actor’s Equity and comes to the production from OKCU where she is a BFA Acting Junior. Her level of skill and grasp of humor is outstanding as she milks each laugh to the rim and never overflows the cup. Lauren Thompson is Cecily Cardew. Thompson is a BFA Acting Sophomore at OKCU and her performance is inspired and while she is very pretty, she makes prettiness itself amusing.
Dwight Sandell is Reverend Chasuble. Sandell comes to the production via CityRep, but is better known to Dallas audiences. Sandell, a member of Actor’s Equity, should visit Oklahoma City more often as his demeanor and talent are exceptional. Brett Garrett is Lane. He comes to us from OKCU where he is a BFA Acting Senior. He takes advantage of every moment on stage and knows exactly what to do with a cucumber sandwich. James Tyler Kirk is Merriman. Kirk is an Acting Performance junior at OKCU. His face is quite elastic and is an excellent choice for this cast.
Alexis Graves and Taylor Weinhold play the two maids. These parts may be small but the two actresses make them memorable. In an incredible show with an wonderful cast it is difficult to stand out with excellence in a small role, but they do so with grace and a great deal of fun. Graves and Weinhold are both Freshman BFA Acting majors. These are debut performances for the actresses and they will continue to impress us in their Oklahoma City University performances and in the community as well.
Oscar Wilde will always be the wittiest playwright ever to put pen to paper. This production not only does justice to Wilde, it embraces him. Oklahoma City University holds a special place in the hearts of community members and alumnae who appreciate the quality of cultural experiences they bring to us. “The Importance of Being Earnest” is exactly the experience that makes us proud to be Oklahomans. “The Importance of Being Earnest” plays through April 14, so there is not much time to catch it. Catch it. Call 405-208-5227 or visit www.okcu.edu/tickets.