“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.
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams plays at the Lyric Theatre at the Plaza through April 13th. Set in the 1930s, the production begins with Tom (Alex J Enterine) giving us a rundown of each of the characters we’ll meet. His mother Amanda (Helen Hedman), his sister Laura (Lindsay Pittman), Jim (Dallas Lish), and the ghost of his absentee father, are all established by Tom’s opening monologue. Two other constructs inform the direction of the play: the Depression and its effects on those without means. Amanda struggles to secure a place for herself and her children in a world that has little sympathy for a woman abandoned by her husband. Tom is obliged to take his father’s place as the sole breadwinner in the family, but resents the burdens that keep him from his poetry and adventure. Laura is constantly badgered by her mother about business school, gentleman callers and the like, but is paralyzed by social anxiety and retreats to the safety of her glass menagerie at every opportunity. While the play is set in 1937, its themes are especially relevant today, and it’s to the Lyric’s credit that they choose to produce it now.
Michael Baron directs the production masterfully, and I cannot say enough about the cast. Hedman is the epitome of Amanda, her love for her children twisted by poverty into screeching rants and delusional remembrances of good times gone by. Enterine is fantastic as Tom, making clear his struggle between love for his family and the desire to get as far away from them as possible. Pittman shines as Laura, where her fewer speaking lines are more than made up by her presence on stage. Lish embodies the boisterous Jim, The Gentleman Caller, confident that he has all the answers despite not being as far along in life as so many expect of him.
This is such a great show! Set Designer Dawn Drake, with Lighting Designer John Fowler and Properties Designer Courtney Strong do a fantastic job, and evoke what can be both comforting and uncomfortable about such a small shared space. Costume Designer Jeffrey Meek furthers the characters’ social standings and personalities with their dress. Bleak realities are quietly emphasized by Sound Designer Michael Mosteller. Baron and Production Stage Manager Kerry Epstein have put together a great show. This is a retelling of a much lauded classic that is superbly directed, produced and acted, and will resonate with audiences without modernization. Go see The Glass Menagerie!
The Glass Menagerie is running at the Lyric Theatre at the Plaza, located at 1725 NW 16th St. The Glass Menagerie is playing now through April 13th, with shows Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 PM, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM and a Saturday matinee at 2:00 PM. Tickets can be purchased online here, or by calling 405.524.9312. Enjoy the show!
Looking back on the good old days is a favorite pastime of every generation at critical points in life and the good old days always reflect a time of learning and discovery. The youthful period of discovery is not always carried throughout a lifetime, unless, of course, one indulges in theatre. Theatre students continue to grow in life as well as theatre and enhance many careers. Those who excel within the craft are blessed with talent and no fear of sweat. Oklahoma City University has been a hotbed of talent in this excellent discipline for the past 90 years. In that near century many from those hallowed halls have walked the paths of success within the craft and now The Oklahoma City University School of Theatre chooses to honor those students. They do so by bringing to life for the fifth time in these 90 years Oscar Wilde’s delightful “The Importance of Being Earnest” recalling cherished memories. Further, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is three-prong collaboration with City-Rep Theatre of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park. All three theatrical entities are packed with OKCU graduates.
The event will take place at Oklahoma City University in the Burg Theatre and opening night is the evening of April 5, 2013. The initial five inductees for The Wall of Honor including legends and friends will take place at a banquet preceding the show. Inductees include the delightful Lakshmi Manchu, a native of India, and OCU graduate who has made a big impression in such programs as Las Vegas and Desperate Housewives and Chip Ulrich a technical expert in lighting whose position with Schuler-Shook is renowned. Cathy O’Donnell, whose contributions in movies is profound (remember the beautiful Barbara Waggoman who captured Jimmy Stewart’s heart in “The Man from Laramie”) is unfortunately a posthumous award. Jonathan Beck Reed whose nationwide theatrical triumphs are legendary will be inducted as well as Donald Jordan, Artistic Director for City-Rep Theatre here in Oklahoma City. Jordan and Reed have worked together on numerous productions over the years and their contribution to OKC Theatre is a credit to our city.
Now, on to the show! “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a great pooling of talent with OKCU Artistic Director, D. Lance Marsh directing an incomparable cast. Donald Jordan, Artistic Director of City-Rep is functioning as Artistic Director for the production and Kathryn McGill, Artistic Director for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park portrays Miss Prism. However, the decisions all fall on Marsh and he begins with a superb cast list: Andi Dema portrays John Worthing, Hunter Paul plays Algernon Moncrief and the incredible Michael Jones is Lady Bracknell. Other cast members include Dwight Sandell, James Tyler Kirk, Brett Garrett, Renee Lawrence and Lauren Thompson. Also Kathryn McGill, Alexis Graves and Taylor Weinhold grace the list of exceptional actors Marsh has chosen. This cast includes Equity actors as well as sweat equity performers and a few future honorees for the Wall of Honor to come.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” is a favorite OCU Theatre production, and a favorite of Oscar Wilde fans, and who isn’t? The show reflects a time period in the past, but the humor is relevant and contemporary and is put together by a group of talented folks who are unable to miss the mark. For ticket information contact the Oklahoma City University Box Office at 405-208-5227 and the Burg Theatre is at the OKCU campus on Blackwelder just north of Pennsylvania Avenue. This is not one to miss! Earnestly!
A Preview Article
By special guest blogger Alexandra Bonifield
“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist
Balance and harmony by design: consider the integrity of a three-legged stool. Each independent element shares equal weight-bearing support with the other two, creating one of the most secure platforms upon which to sit. Transpose understanding of that conceptual elegance to the much anticipated stage production of Oscar Wilde’s comedy ”The Importance of Being Earnest”, opening Saturday April 6 in the Burg Theatre at Oklahoma City University under the three-pronged guidance of City Rep Theatre, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park and Oklahoma City University. Three artistic companies join forces — sharing talents, resources, personnel and a wealth of creative ideas in order to create a landmark, exceptional production of the best of Oscar Wilde. The result? Balance, harmony and first class entertainment.
How does it feel to not run the whole show? Donald Jordan, Founding Artistic Director of professional Oklahoma City Repertory Company or City Rep (recipient of this year’s American Theatre Wing National Theatre Award) explains his response to an early “Earnest” rehearsal, “It’s reassuring to look around the rehearsal space and realize you can’t swing a cat without hitting an Artistic Director or someone who is a “go-to” experienced theatrical leader. We’ve got more than 70 years of Artistic Director experience between us here.” His partners in the creative triumvirate are D. Lance Marsh, Director of “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Artistic Director/Head of Performance at Theatre OCU, an Affiliated Artist with CITY REP as well as Associate Artistic Director for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park and Kathryn McGill, Artistic Director of Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, now in its 29th season. Jordan reflects on the challenges presented by this diversity of co-production. “The integration of three unique theatrical entities, each with its own divergent needs, requires ingenuity, production planning, good communication, a strong sense of teamwork and trust. We all work with differing budgets, requirements (from academic considerations to the various Equity regulations of our professional template) and different standard production schedules. Solving the challenges in new and creative ways is actually part of the process’ fun.”
D. Lance Marsh concurs. “Communication is always a biggie in a co-production, and with three partners it gets more complicated. There are always three bosses (Artistic Directors) in the room when we meet that could potentially cause huge tension, but in this case it has been blissfully tranquil.” Marsh describes the production’s genesis, “ At Theatre OCU, we mix contemporary and classical plays in our seasons. Theatre OCU regularly co-produces with both City Rep and Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, and Kathryn, Don and I have been daydreaming up a project to do together. This play came up in discussions. I had just returned from New York, (two years ago now) where I had seen Brian Bedford’s Broadway revival. City Rep’s Artistic Associate
(a top regional actor and Emmy Award winning director) Michael Jones was mentioned very early in that conversation to play Lady Bracknell; we are so fortunate he took on the challenge.”
Equity actor Jones has nothing but praise for the co-production and its director Lance Marsh. “Lady Bracknell is a once in a lifetime role, the largest acting challenge I’ve ever taken on. I feel like Dustin Hoffman in “Tootsie”, I just want her to be believable and pretty! Three organizations cooperating means we have the financial resources to produce this play at a scale that no one of our organizations could afford. I hope the overlap of audiences will inspire greater attendance for all. The presence of our Equity company, City Rep, from stage manager to actors, will help drive a level of professionalism throughout the production that audiences will remember and come to expect. Our director Lance understands “Earnest’s” potential and brings it fully to life – with his extensive knowledge of and appreciation for the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde. He makes it so visceral, so full of life. It’s a socially relevant play for any era and very, very funny.”
OSP’s Artistic Director Kathryn McGill expands on Jones’ remarks. She plays the female enigma with a “dark past” in the play, Miss Prism. “Lance is always saying ‘One foot in reality, one foot in whimsy’. The play is essentially realistic on the one hand and an over the top send-up of the social mores of the times, too. With Lance directing, a fine balance gets maintained because he’s in his natural element!” A University of Oklahoma graduate with an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, McGill came home to visit three decades ago and saw a need and the chance to create something special in her native Oklahoma. She has now directed 40 productions for the company she founded, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park. “Lance is precise, technically focused and visionary. He inspires trust because he knows his subject so well and understands Oscar Wilde’s superb use of language. I just let the words carry me.”
So who coordinates the publicity and outreach for this worthy production? University of Central Oklahoma graduate Jon Haque, Managing Director of OSP, brings his unique skill set to the table. “We’re experiencing a creative Renaissance in the region, spearheaded by Don and Lance and Kathryn. Our cultural offerings are flourishing right along with our growing communities in OKC. Society at all strata interacts on a digital level; arts organizations need to utilize those resources to engage and demystify “classical” works, so I’m adding social media to the mix. Lady Bracknell has her own Facebook “fan” page we encourage audiences to engage with.” A fine regional actor in his own right, Haque also sings the praises of Lance Marsh as director. ”He’s the most giving director, with an incredible, intimate knowledge of Oscar Wilde and “Earnest”. His full understanding of how to perform this comedy of style encourages actors to really go all out and make their performances fun to watch and accessible.”
So what do these intrepid arts leaders hope their audience will take away from this co-production?
Kathryn McGill: “I hope audiences have a great time! I hope they gain an appreciation for how exceptionally well Wilde wrote his characters and the relevance of great language and literature for communication today.”
Donald Jordan: “I hope it gives our audiences a charming look into the humor of a specific time and place as well as the universality of youth, love and the eternal joy in poking fun at ‘proper’ convention.”
Director Lance Marsh gets the last word, summing it up. “ “The Importance of Being Earnest” is arguably the most perfect comedy written in the English language and one of my favorite plays of all time. Audience take-away? Fun. Style. Romance. A sense of “topsy-turvy.” Wilde is a master of creating a kind of upside-down world, where “the truth is not the sort of thing you tell a nice, sweet, refined girl”, where high stakes things are tossed off as trivialities, while a person’s name, or background, or a cucumber sandwich (or lack thereof) all become earth-shattering events….”
“The Importance of Being Earnest” runs from Friday, April 5 @ 8 PM (preview) through Sunday, April 14 @ 2 PM.
All performances are in the Burg Theatre in the Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center, located at NW 25th and Blackwelder on the campus of Oklahoma City University
Oklahoma City, OK
Tickets: $20 adults, $8 students, teachers and military personnel with ID
CITY REP ticket hotline at 405.848.3761
Lady Bracknell’s fan page on Facebook:
A NY Times profile of Tony nominated Brian Bedford in the 2011 New York revival:
Freelance Journalist, NEA theatre critic and arts advocate Alexandra Bonifield writes from a liberal enclave in Dallas TX where she resides with four cats, a wealth of books and a hefty supply of Earl Grey Tea.
NOTE: This production contains nudity, violent language and actions, and potential triggers for survivors of domestic violence.
OKC Theatre Company and Ghostlight Theatre Club have teamed up for a truly creepy production of Tracy Letts’ play “BUG” directed by Lance Garrett. Even given minor limitations imposed by safety concerns, this production is disturbingly real. The technical skills of the director, the designers, and the actors combine to bring us into a sad and ugly world and meet some people who live there—and who live in our world as well.
Staged in the intimate Cityspace Theatre at the Civic Center Music Hall, the show brings the audience inside the interlocking spirals of a crack addict and a schizophrenic as they deal with an infestation in a seedy motel room. Agnes, played with quirky detail by Paula Dawson, is a divorced waitress living in a motel to avoid her abusive ex. Her friend RC (Christine Lanning) introduces her to Peter, a mild-mannered guy with his own quirks, played with meticulous insanity by Jeff Burleson. The two become interconnected as they deal with the unexpected appearance of Tyler Waits as Jerry the ex, who is now out of prison, and with the upsetting visit of Dr. Sweet (Jeni White).
Dawson and Burleson carry the show, and both show us believably damaged people. In the first act Burleson takes Peter into progressively problematic views of existence while Dawson’s Agnes becomes increasingly uncertain. In the second act, both become invested in a version of reality that may (or may not) be accurate. The accumulating tics and behavioral twitches travel that precarious line between convincing and distracting. This is a combination of good acting and careful direction, and it is not limited to the main characters.
Waits presents a truly frightening Jerry; his unexpected spurts of violence, his menacing physicality, and his intensely manipulative focus on Agnes are all too accurate aspects of domestic violence. Lanning and White also provide clearly defined and fully realized characters, brief though their appearances might be.
The play needs a believable environment, and the intricate and detailed set, crafted by designer and assistant director Scott Hynes, meets a high standard—one that is maintained throughout by the entire production team. Costumes, which contribute significantly to character, are coordinated by Jami Bustamante, soundscape is by Jason McKelvy, and the quiet and effective stage crew is competently run by stage manager Kory M. Kight.
The play itself is an exploration of madness, reality, and modern social paranoia. This production is a fine example of almost voyeuristic naturalism in theatre, and the play has no lessons to teach. Rather, it shows us an ugly side of life for many people today. The ending of the script offers an opportunity to see the characters making a self-aware choice; director Garrett does not takes us down this path. As the second act progresses, rapidly falling psychological and emotional dominos drive toward the ending without coming up for air, giving us little time for empathy or sympathy. By the end of the play, we are watching a beautifully crafted human train wreck.
“BUG” is at the Civic Center’s Cityspace Theatre through March 24. Shows are at 8:00 Thursday-Saturday with a 2:00 matinee on Sunday, March 24. Contact the OKC Theatre Company box office at 405-297-2264 or online at www.okctheatrecompany.org or at www.ghostlighttheatre.com.
Robin Roberts is an accomplished playwright and can be found in Franklin, Indiana where he is Assistant Professor of Theatre at Franklin College. The farce “Dilemmas with Dinner” is a great example of a comedic dream for the actors, and Don Taylor directs this dream with great timing. Jewel Box Theatre is presenting “Dilemmas with Dinner” through March 24, 2013 and the cast of eight bring tears of mirth to audience eyes.
The action takes place in the home of Donny and Brooke Williams. Donny owns a small book store and Brooke is working for a company that has an opening for a vice president. Brooke has invited the boss and his wife over for dinner to butter them up a little bit so that she may be considered for the position she has earned. For the dinner to be perfect her friend and assistant at work, Julia and Julia’s boyfriend round out the guest list. Brooke has hired a caterer to cook and serve the dinner expecting Caren the caterer to be helpful. Donny has been followed home by a recently fired employee who also tries to be helpful in hopes of having his job at the bookstore restored.
Brooke Williams is delightfully played by Christine Jolly. Tad Thurston is wonderful as Donny Williams. Tiffany Tuggle-Rogers as the harried caterer is very funny and Dalton Thomas as Max, Donny’s former assistant, is poignantly amusing. Allyson Rose as friend Julia is amusing and Clint Kubat as her boyfriend Stephen is the observant calm one maintaining his cool amidst the chaos.
Much of the first act in a farce involves the set up and “Dilemmas with Dinner” really gets going in the second act when the boss and his wife arrive at the Williams home for dinner. Will is portrayed by James Tyra with a bit of deadpan humor that is insanely funny and Jackie Smola as Louise very nearly steals the show. Smola is hysterically funny and so natural that she is believable. Furthermore, in the coming together that takes place in the second act when everything is falling apart all of the actors exhibit the perfect timing and reaction that makes “Dilemmas with Dinner” a perfect evening of comedy at the theatre.
Don Taylor has certainly done an excellent job of staging for the Jewel Box Theatre space. The set is beautiful and the actors all make excellent use of their surroundings. The first row of seating at the Jewel Box is a little too close for audience members to appreciate the panoramic nuances in the action. Just one tier of elevation gives room to capture some of those great little moments these actors present.
This production is the Oklahoma premiere of “Dilemmas with Dinner” and thanks to the Jewel Box for bringing this hilarious farce to the attention of Oklahomans who always appreciate a good laugh. “Dilemmas with Dinner” plays through March 24, 2013 at the Jewel Box which is located in the First Christian Church, 3700 N. Walker. For ticket information contact the box office at 405-521-1786 or visit www.jewelboxtheatre.org and don’t miss a great evening of highly comic farce!
Carpenter Square is presenting “Mrs. Mannerly” through March 16, 2013 directed by Kenneth Benton. There is no doubt that Benton cast this play with the ‘best of the best’ among Oklahoma City’s talented pool of actors. Cast members are Linda McDonald as Helen Anderson Kirk, known to students and former students as ‘Mrs. Mannerly’ with affection. Playing her student, Jeffrey, as well as cameo appearances as all the other students and some parents is Kaleb Bruza.
Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher is clearly using his own life as the basis for this cute comedy and manages to objectively recall those humorous qualities that allow one to grow from an awkward young boy to a successful playwright. “Mrs. Mannerly” is the story of a woman, returning to her home town having spent about 30 years teaching etiquette to those needing extracurricular instructions. She is now teaching children and grandchildren of her original students. This story tells of a special relationship that develops between Mrs. Mannerly and one of her most important and unusual students, Jeffrey. Jeffrey is a bright young man, unable to compete with other students in academic and athletic areas and determined to succeed in this class.
The script is consistently amusing with moments of hilarity. McDonald and Bruza do not miss a single opportunity to capture each of the author’s moments. Thanks to Director Benton the reactions are just as pronounced and amusing as the delivery and that makes “Mrs. Mannerly” work beautifully.
When times are tough and spring seems such a long way off a light-hearted look at life is necessary. “Mrs. Mannerly” does this with great sensitivity, as the audience learns that good manners are still important, and the basic of rules in etiquette may seem arbitrary and silly but they form a foundation for people to understand what they should do in any given situation. The overall flow of “Mrs. Mannerly” leaves the audience with the understanding that this instructor’s mission is important, even as we are amused by some of the more ridiculous strictures in etiquette. Comedy is stronger the closer to the reality reflected.
Benton, along with James Polk Wilson has designed a perfect yet minimalist set. The set creates an excellent venue for Benton to ‘block’ in characters that are invisible. Bruza’s fluid body movement enables him to step into each different character as he steps into their allotted space with ease and great creativity. McDonald, certainly one of Oklahoma’s most talented actresses and multi-talented artists has developed the perfect mix of public propriety and private impropriety. McDonald is delightful and alongside Bruza they make a great pair with great timing.
This is a good play for families, specifically multi-generational, as we are reminded of the special relationships that can develop between those at the beginning of their lives and choices and those who are facing the end of their choices with dignity and poise.
This production is also graced with lobby art by Marilyn Artus. Her collage style of art is fascinating as well as beautiful and combines the mix of media with soft but profound statements. Artus, a co-founder of The Girlie Show, a 2-day all female art/craft show known here in Oklahoma City, uses her vast artistic experience to sew and create silhouette pieces that capture the imagination.
800 W. Main, Oklahoma City is the place to be at 8:00PM Saturday and Sunday nights through March 16, 2013. That is the newest address for Carpenter Square Theatre. Their space is developing rapidly and is becoming a very delightful theatre. To contact them online visit www.carpentersquare.com or call 405-232-6500.
Harper Lee’s beloved novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” plays well at The Pollard Theatre. Christopher Sergel’s dramatization uses Jean Louise Finch to narrate her childhood experiences as Scout, the irrepressible daughter of small town lawyer Atticus Finch. The action takes place during a controversial trial that has polarized the small southern town of Maycomb, Alabama during the depression.
As narrator, Jean Louse Finch is played by Gwendolyn Evans while her younger self is Alexandria Grable. These two look and play very naturally as each other conquering beautifully the hesitancy some directors may have in using this version of the play. Director W. Jerome Stevenson incorporates the characters with great sensitivity and Grable and Evans are excellent examples.
Atticus Finch is performed by James A. Hughes, a familiar face to Pollard audiences in an unfamiliar role. These three lead the rest of the cast through the story effortlessly. Exciting smaller roles are delightfully carried by David Fletcher-Hall as Bob Ewell and Emily Frances Brown as Mayella Ewell. Fletcher-Hall’s interpretation beautifully illustrates the jealousy that accompanies prejudice and ignorance. Brown reveals the cost of that ignorance and isolation as she demonstrates the damage her father has done to his family in her performance.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” has some great roles for women, and Stevenson cast great women in those roles. De’Vin Lewis as Calpurnia is lovely, Beverly Caviness as Maudie Atkinson with Cory King as Stephanie Crawford and Jennifer Rosson as Mrs. Dubose create the typical small town power base that women often hold with wit and sincerity.
Tom Robinson, defendant and victim of racial discrimination is beautifully played by Rory Littleton. The poignancy of his position is revealed in his demeanor as much as his delivery. Ben Bates as Reverend Sykes, ministering to the needs of the black community is wise as well as comforting. Lane Fields plays the small town southern Sheriff, Heck Tate, as a man who brings a high moral standard to his position. Clayton Blair as ‘Boo’ Radley is distinctive in his presentation.
Grable leads the other children in the production to great heights. Matt Maloy is brother Jem and his performance is sensitive and secure. Harry Simpson plays Dill, the young scamp visiting and longing for acceptance. Simpson has great timing, a skill not often revealed in such a young actor.
The ability to project is specifically appreciated in the performance of Harry Simpson as Dill and David Fletcher-Hall as Bob Ewell. The audience has a difficult time hearing the dialogue of the other actors due to a combination of dialect and speed as well as low audio. They will be better understood as they slow down for upcoming performances and hopefully their microphones will be tuned a notch higher. But good projection is always the best answer, and young Simpson particularly should be congratulated for his ability. Some viewers may quarrel with Stevenson’s interpretation as Hughes plays Atticus Finch with an air of regret and martyrdom that those who love this story will find uncomfortable or disappointing.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” presented by Jeff & Carol Hirzel plays at The Pollard Theatre in downtown Guthrie through March 16, 2013. The Pollard is located at 120 W. Harrison and the curtain comes up at 8:00pm with Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. Tickets can be purchased online at www.thepollard.org or call 405-282-2800