The Plaza District seems to be a few degrees chillier than the rest of the city these days. This is likely due to the fact that Halloween is arriving at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma’ s Plaza Theatre a little early this year with the premiere of “The Mystery of Irma Vep” on Wednesday, October 10. The show runs for three weeks, closing on Saturday, October 27. If the start of “Lyric’s A Christmas Carol” means the holiday season is in full swing, then this show is surely the way to kick-off the year’s spookiest celebration.
For those who have not recently brushed up on their theater history, “The Mystery of Irma Vep” was written by Charles Ludlam and is one of the most-produced plays in history. The script, a spoof on Victorian melodramas and horror films, requires masterful comedic timing and the humor is likened to that of the “Carol Burnett Show.” Much like the theater favorite “Greater Tuna,” all eight parts in the show are portrayed by just two actors. Think lighting fast costume changes, a slew of funny accents and (you guessed it) men portraying Victorian era women. Spooky hilarity ensues, to say the least.
Lyric’s Artistic Director Michael Baron is directing the play as an answer to decades of fascination with Charles Ludlam and his work. The theatre has brought in two of its audiences’ favorite actors—Monte Riegel Wheeler and Jeffrey Meek. Wheeler was most recently seen playing the Ed Sullivan-loving Mr. MacAfee in last summer’s BYE BYE BIRDIE. The ridiculous faces he is able to make alone are enough for me to go see “Irma Vep.” Wheeler’s on-stage counterpart, Jeffrey Meek, not only acts as the resident costume designer at Lyric year-round, but you may have also seen his work at The Boom as Norma Jean Goldstein.
I spoke with Meek and Wheeler earlier this week. “Irma Vep is going to be one crazy ride,” said Meek. “The perfect Halloween treat—it starts off spooky and quickly takes the audiences on a fast-paced, out of control night of old school fun.”
“The show is filled with thrills, chills, horror, high drama and outrageous comedy,” said Wheeler. “Audiences can expect colorful characters, excitement, intrigue, a lot of laughs and some fun surprises!”
Start your Halloween off right with “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” October 10-27, at Lyric’s Plaza Theatre. Click here for tickets or call the box office at (405) 524-9312.
The Reduxion 2012-2013 Season is upon us! The season kicks off on October 5th with “Night of Grand Guignol!” These short vignettes are meant to terrify and titillate with gory special effects and realistic violence. Take in both a Friday and Saturday show to catch all seven vignettes. “Night of Grand Guignol” runs through the 27th. The revolution continues on November 9th with “Richard II.” Guest artist Rex Daugherty stars in the title role in what is sure to be a lively performance featuring live music, dancing and audience participation! Their February production is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known comedies, “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Set in 1953 Spain, this reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s classic is great for a family night out. The show runs at the Broadway Theater February 8th through March 3rd, followed by the Metro Library System tour. The season ends with “The History of Tom Jones” May 3rd through the 25th. Based on the novel by Henry Fielding, “The History of Tom Jones” promises to be an action packed show about the scoundrel with a heart of gold.
I spoke to Erin Woods, Managing Director at Reduxion Theatre Company about the upcoming season, her original adaptations, and her vision for RTC. I reviewed her adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” last season and attended the reading of her adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” at the first ever Jane Austen Festival at the Broadway Theater, and wanted to find out a bit more about her process. Woods acknowledged the difficulty of cutting down such dense stories into a production manageable not only for audiences, but also the actors and director. She writes the play she’d want to perform or direct—fast paced and practical—while staying true to the language and intent of the original work. These principles are evident in both “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice,” which manage to both convey the stories in a meaningful way and flow smoothly for the actors and the audience. Woods also gave me a little insight into how the Reduxion season is planned. Every season includes two Shakespeare plays, at least one comedy and one tragedy, and “one really different.” Their fifth season, Revolution, creates within these parameters what is sure to be an interesting and exciting season, drawing from their mission “to professionally produce both classical and contemporary theatre, enriching Oklahoma’s cultural, educational and economic climate, attracting artists and audiences from around the world.” Also worth noting is their “Classics for Kids” program, which includes touring productions, student matinée performances of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” and “Classics Camp,” a two week theatre day camp for teens, as well as other workshops and private coaching.
Woods and the rest of the Reduxion Theatre Company know that to change people’s lives through theatre the first step is to get them to attend. Original productions, unique offerings and a focus on accessibility put them well on their way. While they’ve titled their fifth season Revolution, their impact on Oklahoma’s cultural landscape has been and will continue to be, revolutionary.
Click here for tickets or more information on the Reduxion Theatre Company, or call 405.651.3191.
There are a few simple yet uncommon qualities needed to create a masterful production. Shakespeare in the Park is presenting “The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice” directed by D. Lance Marsh. This production has those qualities. W. Jerome Stevenson, born for the role of Othello and Kevin Asselin, born for the role of Iago lead a cast effortlessly in a production as easy to revel in as original Elizabethan patrons.
Sophie Moshofsky as Desdemona is excellent, Mandee Chapman Roach as Emilia is equally skilled. Bryant Belknap as Cassio, Robert Bowman as Roderigo, Richard Rouillard as the Duke of Venice, David Fletcher-Hall as Lodavico and Hal Kohlman as Brabantio are all superb as the create believable and relevant characters in understandable situations. Often, a modern audience is left cold when confronted by Shakespeare, intimidated by the reputed beauty of the language, and confused by medieval English phraseology and attitudes. Under Marsh’s direction these actors bridge the gap without attempting to update the production.
Rachel Spencer as Bianca, Ryan Swartzman as Gratiano, Kody Brown as Hearald also give excellent performances alongside Valerie Sharp, Barrett (Bear) Lile, Dillon Horner, Carissa Carlson, Misael Pando, Chauncey Shillow and Heath Jones, Jr. Whether performing in cameo roles or simply as understudies this cast performs as a Company.
Blind jealousy and prejudice are the main factors of the story as Othello is manipulated into believing his beloved Desdemona is faithless, and the tragedy unfolds through deceit that is only revealed at the end.
Modern viewers can easily see through the manipulations in many of these productions as it is an old story. But in this production, the audience is taken away and can believe as Othello sees, because Stevenson is Othello. Iago is not so transparent that the viewer does not understand the motivations of those who believe his manipulations. This is one of those productions that not only entertain but educate because suddenly the difference between the medieval mind and the modern mind is the difference of only a moment.
Marsh and his cast should be congratulated for this production and devotees of Shakespeare must not miss this “Othello” as those who are not devoted will get hooked. The weather is lovely for most of the performances, the breeze is pleasant and the show is dynamite. The scenery and the mood are wonderful and the costumes by Robert Pittenridge are outstanding. Marsh has excellent instincts in staging and the additional contribution of Kevin Asselin as Fight Choreographer is genuine. Congratulations to Marsh and the fine cast for presenting such a great production for Shakespeare in the Park.
“The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice can be seen at the Water Stage at the Myriad Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City through September 29, 2012. For tickets call 405-235-3700. The box office is open one hour prior to showtimes: 8:00pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings or visit www.oklahomashakespeare.com,
Poteet Theatre presents “To Kill a Mockingbird” the Christopher Sergel adaptation of Harper Lee’s beloved novel of the same name. “To Kill a Mockingbird” details the trial of Tom Robinson, a young black laborer in a small southern town. He has been accused of the rape of a young white woman, and the lawyer chosen to represent him is Atticus Finch. The story is a narration by Scout, the young daughter of Atticus Finch who, along with brother Jem and friend Dill learns first life’s harsh lessons of jealousy, racism and small minded gossips tempered by the exception that Atticus Finch himself represents.
In Sergel’s adaptation the narration is handled by Maudie, a sympathetic character who voices for the child Scout in the book. While the book is beloved by many, the play is a popular and beloved choice for any production company.
Poteet uses Director Michael Payne, whose love of the story is evident in his direction. He begins by creating an outstanding and simple set that functions beautifully as the street of a small Southern town, and then as the courthouse itself for the trial scene.
Many young folks are in the cast lead by Nolia Sweatt as the irrepressible Scout Finch. Aaron Stewart is brother Jem Finch, and these two young actors play their crucial parts quite well. A third child, visiting an aunt is a boy called Dill. Sam Brown as Dill is excellent and has a great future as an actor.
Other notable performances are given by Jean-Marie Otto as Maudie Atkinson, Dana Palmer as Stephanie Crawford and Norma Goff as Calpurnia. The three female characters represent different levels of society who know each other well. David Patterson as Heck Tate, Brian Scott as Tom Robinson, Julie Prock as Mrs. DuBose, Joe Moore as Judge Taylor, T. J. Brown as Bob Ewell, Haley Schafer as Mayella Ewell and Stephen Dillard-Carroll as Reverend Sykes make this production quite memorable.
The important role of Atticus Finch is held by Patrick Melrick. Melrick brings to the role all that a director could ask for in experience, vocal quality and demeanor. However, his performance is completely wooden as if he is completely unaffected by the events. This is also the first live play Melrick has appeared in after a period of 20 years. Perhaps, as he settles into the role, he will allow his emotions to surface enough to portray that calm yet torn father unwilling to compromise his convictions.
. Once Melrick loosens up, “To Kill a Mockingbird” may be well worth seeing, so the last weekend may be the best weekend to reserve tickets for that reason. The rest of the cast is quite good, the set is amazing and, even wooden, and Melrick’s vocal resonance creates good possibilities.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” runs through September 30, 2012 at the Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 222 N.W. 15th Street in Oklahoma City. For ticket information visit www.poteettheatre.com or call 405-609-1023
W. Jerome Stevenson has the look and the talent to bring Othello to life in Shakespeare in the Park’s next superb Shakespearean wonder: “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice” directed by D. Lance Marsh. The Myriad Botanical Gardens Water Stage will be the perfect setting as these characters succumb to jealousy and manipulation. Lies, betrayal and impulsiveness contribute to the downfall of a man who lets fear control his thinking and passion control his soul.
In addition to Stevenson, Kevin Asselin is Iago with Sophie Moshofsky as the beautiful Desdemona. Emilia is played by Mandee Chapman Roach, Cassio is portrayed by Bryant Belknapp and Roderigo is portrayed by Robert Bowman. Rachel Spencer has the role of Bianca, Richard Roulliard is the Duke of Venice, Hal Kohlman is Brabantio and David Fletcher-Hall is Lodavico. With Ryan Schwartzman as Gratiano, Chancey Shillow as Montano, Tanner Hermann, Bear Lile, Dillon Horner, Kody Brown, Valerie Sharp and Carissa Carlson, Marsh has assembled an excellent cast.
“Othello” opens September 13 and will run through September 29 with 8:00pm performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Water Stage at the Myriad Botanical Gardens is at South Robinson Avenue and West Reno Avenue. For tickets contact Shakespeare in the Park at 405-236-3700 or online at www.OKLAHOMASHAKESPEARE.COM. Remember, rain is a blessing, so if any performances are rained out — rejoice and Shakespeare in the Park will honor the tickets for a later performance!
By Shawna Linck, Poteet Theatre Director of Education
Poteet Theatre, located in St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City, is proud to present Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of the compelling drama, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Lee’s novel was an instant success when it was first published in 1960. Set in Alabama during the Great Depression, we follow the journey of Jem and Scout as their father Atticus Finch attempts to defend Tom Robinson, a black man framed for a crime he didn’t commit. The lessons that Jem and Scout discover as they watch their community struggle with issues of racism and moral responsibility are timeless, and equally important to members of our communities today.
Poteet’s production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” is directed by Michael Payne, drama teacher at Classen School of Advanced Studies. Prior to his arrival in Oklahoma City, Michael worked professionally at the Dallas Theatre Center, where he was in charge of Education, and also served as Marketing Coordinator for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
This is Michael’s third time to direct “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and each time has been a different adaptation of this classic story. He feels Sergel’s adaptation is the most authentic, as the story presented is closest to the book. This version also differs sharply from the other two versions he has directed in that the story is not told from Scout’s point of view, but rather from the neighbors’ viewpoints, which allows the audience to fully realize the complete story.
Payne loves the story he has so carefully crafted on the Poteet Stage, having a high respect for playwrights and novelists. He feels that in every production “the playwright is the most important person in the room,” and thus, he goes directly to the text to create every element of his production as faithfully as possible. His representational set fluidly represents the two worlds embraced by the story. Both the southern gothic neighborhood and the courtroom are easily visualized without jarring the audience or distracting from the story by bringing in walls or requiring massive set changes.
This is Payne’s first time to direct at Poteet, and he has been thrilled with his experience. He describes Poteet as “ a professional family all coming together to put up a show.” He notes that the staff and crew at Poteet remind him of Stanislavski’s close knit family, who all knew what they were doing and would work together to create a work of art. He also feels he has a great cast for this truly ensemble piece, who all “know where we are, and work together to tell the story and strengthen it.”
Heading up the talented cast is Patrick Meirick as Atticus Finch, a fictional lawyer whose impact on the legal profession has been formidable. Alice Petry remarked that “Atticus has become something of a folk hero in legal circles and is treated almost as if he were an actual person.” Meirick is new to the Poteet Stage, in fact, he has not been active in theatre for 20 years. His 13 year old son recently became involved in community theatre and Patrick decided to audition with him for the Poteet production. Imagine their surprise when only the father was cast. His son has been very supportive and proud of his father’s work in this production.
Meirick has thrown himself heart and soul into his role. “Atticus is who I’d like to think I am,” Meirick humbly shares. “He is a bottomless well of integrity: brave, kind, modest. He’s everything I aspire to be.” Meirick’s biggest challenge? Getting a handle on Atticus’s famous monologue at the end of courtroom scene. “Atticus talks so much about the strict code of our society, condemning Mayella for flirting with a black man. It’s a code he doesn’t necessarily believe in. I had to figure out how to appeal to the jury’s belief in the code, while maintaining Atticus’s own integrity.”
Other notable performers include Nolia Sweatt as “Scout”, who appeared as the lovable red-headed orphan herself in Poteet’s production of Annie last fall, and Brian Scott, who made his Poteet Debut in The Color Purple, and performed in Poteet’s OCTAFEST contest piece, A Lesson from Aloes.
You won’t want to miss Poteet’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird which opens this Friday, September 14, and runs through Sunday, September 30. Performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays are held at 8 pm. Sunday matinees are at 3 pm. Tickets are available online at www.poteettheatre.com or by calling the box office at (405) 609-1023. Tickets are $20 and all seats are reserved.
Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre presents David Mamet’s “November” in September. This comedy takes place in the oval office as an incumbent President wrestles with appalling numbers in the waning days of the campaign. President Charles Smith (Chuck) is also obsessed with establishing a Presidential Library in the interests of posterity. He is also exceedingly interested in leaving the office of the President with a pocketful of pennies times several million dollars. In short, he is the President that exhibits all of the worst characteristics of the self-serving greedy politician. He does so in a beautifully detailed recreation of the oval office. The set is as near to the actual oval office as is humanly possible and has all the little touches that make the office real to viewers.
While the visual parallels are apparent, this is not a partisan play. It is a slap-stick farcical comedy that just happens to take place in the oval office. The characters are rather buffoonish and do not exhibit any trace of the nobility that Presidents should at least feign in order to be elected the first time out.
Director Donald Jordan describes the play as: ‘West Wing meets South Park’ and that is certainly an apt description. The language is salty, unnaturally so as President Smith decides to bribe the Representative of the Turkey industry. In order for the turkeys to receive the annual Presidential Pardon for Thanksgiving, the industry must pay $200 Million Dollars. The premise is completely ridiculous allowing the audience to separate the characters from any persons living or dead. Marcellus Hankins as President Smith creates a selfish one-dimensional man in a suit without a shred of humanity underneath. He is assisted by longtime loyal aide Archer Brown skillfully portrayed by Steve Emerson. The Turkey Guy (third man in a suit) is brought to light by Matthew E. Ellis. The hi-jinx are quite hilarious and the language would make a sailor blush. While many politicians do exhibit these unpleasant traits, they all develop a public façade designed to encourage trust and passion. In this play, that façade is never revealed so no humor can be derived from contrast. The three suits are total buffoons, and they are indeed funny.
Kris Schinske is Clarice Bernstein, Presidential speechwriter and practicing lesbian. Her character does exhibit some redeeming qualities, so that the comedy seems more natural. Dwight Grackle, Chief of the Micmac People is expertly portrayed by Jon Haque in full regalia. Blackmailing President Smith into turning over Nantucket entirely for the purposes of a casino is an objective Haque makes plausible.
The play is not only intended to be non-partisan, it is also intended to be a lighthearted roast of stereotypically corrupt politicos. The timing seems perfect for this production from 2008. “November” in the September before an incumbent President struggles for a second term.
Unexpectedly, the humor is tempered by the reality that, collectively, Americans begin to take the upcoming election seriously at this time of year. This is the time we begin to develop our passion for our potential president, and the one-dimensional representation seems to patriotic Americans more shallow than funny. It is passion that vaults us to the polls and “November” would be hilarious in July or January, but may seem a bit uncomfortable for September for passionately patriotic patrons.
CityRep’s “November” shows at the Civic Center Music Hall in the CitySpace Theatre through September 23, 2012. Performance time is 7:30pm to accommodate parking for patrons. For reservations call 405-848-3761 or visit www.cityrep.com.
“God of Carnage” is an interesting little comedy about two couples meeting to discuss the schoolyard altercation between their two 11-year old sons. Rhonda Clark directs “God of Carnage” at Carpenter Square Theatre through September 29, 2012 with a combination of wit and sensitivity creating a very humorous foundation. Alan and Annette Raleigh, parents of ‘the son wielding the stick’ visit the home of Michael and Veronica Novak the parents of the ‘son without his teeth’ to resolve the altercation. As the evening progresses, the two couples explore a great many additional issues to the primary one at hand. They often shift polarities, with the women pitted against the men in some cases, and the couples pitted against each other. As the evening continues and the rum runs they laugh, cry and argue passionately over the most ridiculous and trivial subjects learning surprising things about each other, themselves and life in general.
Mike Waugh is Michael Novak, a prosperous salesman of household goods. His wife, Veronica Novak is played by Lilli Bassett, a writer and housewife who is studying Africa. Alan Raleigh is Chad Alan Baker and Annette Raleigh is played by Mona Campbell. The four actors have mastered believably long marriages that allow the give and take a realistic sense. The characters are completely natural in mannerisms, affections, affectations and sincerity.
A few difficult feats are played nicely, specifically as Campbell’s character, Annette becomes ill. She manages to do so realistically, with the only give-away is that her face does not actually go green. Her husband, an obnoxious cell phone user and insincere lawyer is well played by Baker as he dominates the entire meeting. A meeting which morphs into a party and the while the two couples are on a slippery slope, the audience is on a roller coaster.
Costumes designed by the Director are appropriate and look comfortable for the actors. The set is very interesting. Caleb Schnackenberg and Rhonda Clark put together a very nice set showcasing Veronica Novak’s interest in Africa. Chad Alan Baker also assisted with properties. Carpenter Square’s Lobby Artist clearly contributed a great deal to the overall ambience of the set, as much of the art work adorning the walls at the home of the Novak’s is an extension of the lobby art by Albert Bostick. The lobby display is very exciting for this show, and certainly helps motivating Bassett’s development of her character.
While the intensity of the story peaks a little soon for easy sustainability, overall these four actors do a fine job of drawing the audience into the situation that is, at one time or another, familiar to most parents. Unfortunately there is no easy resolution in life, or in this story, and we are left wondering if there will ever be an easy answer and knowing there is not.
Kids have a hard time, don’t they? Fortunately they grow out of their worst encounters. Parents remember with a good laugh, and “God of Carnage” reminds them of those moments. We laugh with them because we were right there with them not so long ago. For the younger audience member, well, you’ll see what’s in store for you in a few years!
“God of Carnage” is one of Yasmina Reza’s most interesting plays and a Tony Award winner from 2009 as well as a recipient of the Olivier Award and shows through September 29, 2012 at Carpenter Square’s new location: 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City. For ticket information call 405-232-6500.
“God of Carnage” an award winning comedy by Yasmina Reza (translated by Christopher Hampton) opens the 29th Season for Carpenter Square Theatre this Friday, September 7, 2012. Running through September 23, this show is about two couples who come together to discuss the playground altercation of their two 11-year old sons. As the play unfolds both couples and the boys learn a lot about life and human nature. Because of language this award winning comedy would be rated PG-13.
In 2009 “God of Carnage” received the Tony Award and the Olivier Award as well as the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards for Best Play. Yasmina Reza is a French playwright, novelist, screenwriter and actress best known for her plays “Art” and “Life X Three.”
Rhonda Clark, Artistic Director for Carpenter Square Theatre directs Mike Waugh, Lilli Bassett, Chad Baker and Mona Campbell as the two sets of parents involved. Caleb Schnackenberg is technical director and Jay C. Shardt is lighting designer as Angela Curtis is production stage manager.
For reservations for “God of Carnage”, season tickets, or information visit www.carpentersquare.com or call 405-232-6500. Carpenter Square Theatre is enjoying much success at their new location at 800 West Main in Oklahoma City where there is easy access and parking. The Lobby features various artists for each show, and drinks are available at the Carpenter Square Bar for patrons.
By guest blogger Anna Holloway
The Oklahoma premier of David Mamet’s hit Broadway farce NOVEMBER is the first show of CityRep’s 11th season. A scathing and hilarious look at politics American style, NOVEMBER opens September 7 and runs Friday-Sunday until September 23. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 7:30 and Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 1:30.
CityRep, the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, regarded as Oklahoma’s leading small professional Equity Theater, chose to open the season with this timely comedy by one of America’s greatest living playwrights, David Mamet. The sometimes salty dialog and sharply drawn characters are familiar hallmarks of the Pulitzer Prize winning author’s style. NOVEMBER is one of Mamet’s rare stage comedies, and his broad use of farce plays with the human side of how power corrupts and how human dignity can rise above even political corruption. “It’s absolutely not a partisan play,” Mamet says firmly. “It’s a play about a president. Not this president, or the next.” This even-handed skewering of the foibles of our all-too-human politicians makes for an evening of laugh out loud “I can’t believe he said that” fun.
Marcellus Hankins returns to the CityRep stage as embattled President Charles Smith, a lovable rogue dealing with poll numbers that are “lower than Gandhi’s cholesterol” while his speechwriter, played by Kris Schinske, has disappeared on a vacation to adopt a baby on the eve of the election. Chief-of-Staff Archer Brown (CityRep regular Steve Emerson) juggles the President’s ego and insecurities, the responsibilities of the office and the limits of the law in Smith’s unlikely quest for a second term. Political greed, corporate interests and the sensitivities of special interest groups all come into play in the keenly drawn satirical masterpiece.
The play takes place entirely in the Oval Office. Recreating this familiar location in the CitySpace theatre in the Civic Center’s lower level is all part of the fun and audiences will have no trouble imagining themselves inside the White House as the story unfolds on the intimate stage.
Amidst all the laughter and mayhem, CityRep is also seriously continuing its mission of service to central Oklahoma by working to make voter registration information available in the theatre lobby.
Artistic Director Donald Jordan says, “Voting is our great privilege, and a civic duty. So whether you are a “Republi-crat,” a “Demo-can’t,” or like me, just politically indecisive, we hope you’ll come enjoy this funny look at our country’s penchant for wild and wooly politics!”
Contact the Civic Center Box office, 405-297-2264 for individual seats, or call CityRep’s managing director Michael Jones at 405-410-8035 for information on the CityRep season ticket Flexpass. This production is rated “R” for strong adult language and adult themes.