12
Aug

The Only Light in Reno

The Only Light in Reno
Out of Box Theatre
through August 26, 2017

Topher Payne obviously did a load of research into what went on fifty-six years ago when a film “The Misfits” was being shot in Reno and got shut down due to a huge forest fire.

The show is based upon some stories involving Montgomery Clift (Daniel Carter Brown), Marilyn Monroe (Bryn Striepe), Libby Holman (Jennifer Lee) Liz Taylor (Emily Sams) and Paula Strasberg (Carolyn Choe). The story line is somewhat obscured in the start but it deals with the personal habits and egotistical indulgences of these celebrities who may appear somewhat sane on screen, or in the media, but have troubles running their own lives.

It starts off with just Libby Holman, Marilyn and Monty dishing it out; but then Liz shows up and they start dishing the dirt about her and Eddie Fisher. That’s when things really get amped up. In the meantime there is Paula Strasberg, wife of the famed Lee Strasberg, who is trying to retain some semblance of sanity among these celebrities.

Directed by Matthew Busch, who had been connected to this work since it premiered 3 years ago. The set by Matthew and Topher Payne is Marilyn’s suite in the Reno hotel; which had a few problems such as no electricity, phones, or food service and the elevators trapping some guests, etc.

Bryn Striepe does a great job as Norma Jean Baker, whose Marilyn persona flew to the stars but flamed out at age 36. And Monty cashed out at 46. They all had their addictions and egos to deal with. So what else is new? Each member of the cast is spot-on and does a swell job with loads of lines, and the show runs about 2 hours 25 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.

I’m not sure the under 40 crowd is going to relate to a some of the history.   It is accurate and the author poured his all into crafting this one. It’s good to see that it’s been tweaked slightly, and has found it’s legs and will play around for quite a while. For as they know, the show, or the film, goes on as long as there’s a stage, or camera, and somebody who needs be in the lead.

More info and tickets at OutOfBoxTheatre.com

7
Aug

Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole
Center Stage North
through August 12, 2017

David Lindsey-Abaire penned this work several years ago. It went through some revisions and in 2007 won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The title may be somewhat obscure, however. But think that when Alice was in Wonderland she found that a rabbit hole was an adventure into the unknown; as rabbits burrow through a warren of passages on their travels.

In this play we meet a couple who are trying to work through their grief over the loss of their 4-year old son. The issue is how life goes on for those who are left. Alas, it is a conundrum that many of us have dealt with.

Izzy (Sorsha Masters) is a single woman who is in a relationship with a man we never actually meet. But, his name is Auggie and she is pregnant with his child. Her sister is Becca (Amanda Leigh Kraft) who tries to play the part of the more sane sibling. But, she has her issues and it is hard for her. It was her son, Danny, who was killed in an car accident some 8 months earlier.

Becca’s husband Howie (Keith Kraft) is also trying to cope with the loss, but in a different modality. Becca may seek solitude and see Danny wherever she may look; while Howie interacts with others in grieving counseling sessions. She thinks they should sell the home and move on in life. He is of a different mind.

As grim as the play may be there is some humor in it, provided by the girls’ mother, Nat (Shelly Barnett), who comes on like an Anne Meara type. And, Nat does understand where Becca is. As she lost her druggie son at age 30.

Danny was run over by a car when he ran into the street to chase his dog. And the young man who was driving, Jason (Benja Petty) is having his problems dealing with the hand that life has dealt.  C’est la vie . . .

The show is directed by Keith Kraft who puts his all into it, as does his real-time wife and the others. And while it is well performed, it would not be fully suitable for youngsters, or those who are themselves working through the process of grieving. Center Stage North is at 3605 Sandy Plains Rd, and easy to get to with free parking and good coffee and cookies. More info at CenterStageNorth.org

6
Aug

Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross
Pinch ‘n’ Ouch Theatre
through September 23, 2017

This production of David Mamet’s work is unusual in that it runs through August 26th with the current cast, and then reopens August 31 to September 23 with a totally different cast. Most of the action is set in a seedy real estate office in Mamet’s home town of Chicago, and must have resembled one of those places where he worked in earlier years.

The story deals with some hustlers selling off real estate in two developments, Glengarry Island and Glen Ross Farms. Kind of like when Marco Island and others were being divided up and sold off a half a century ago.

Grant McGowen directs a hard working cast of seven players. You first meet Shelly Levene (Al Stilo) who is scraping the bottom of the barrel, trying to get some decent leads from the dweeb who is the office manager, played by Omer Mughal. After all, if you don’t have leads who are you gonna hustle? Jayson Warner Smith plays top selling agent Richard Roma. Dave Moss (Alex Van) and George Arronow (Andy Fleming) are two more sales reps each with some serious personal self-image problems. None of these guys has any regard for the office manager nor the owners, Mitch and Murray, who we never meet.

But, a couple of them hatch a plot to stage a robbery in which they’ll wind up with all the hot leads and cash in big-time. At least until a police officer (Jennifer Schottstaedt) shows up investigating the more-or-less break-in. One little problem becomes a bigger one when a patsy named James (Marcus LaRon) shows up and wants to exercise his right to rescind the contract he signed fewer than 3 days prior. All hell breaks loose

This is one of those stories in which the “F-word” is used as the universal modifier. Ergo, it is not for the kiddies nor Ms. Prim. But, it is real folks, in real time, in real dealing. These sales reps could also have been used car dealers or politicians.

The show has been playing to full houses, albeit the venue seats only about 50 patrons. But, more info and tickets at pnotheatre.org

5
Aug

Cabaret

Cabaret
Serenbe Playhouse
through September 3, 2017

What good is sitting alone in your room when you can come hear the music play, in a first class production of Cabaret. Brian Clowdus, founder of the Serenbe Playhouse actually takes the stage in this one as the Emcee, and what is even more exciting is that Molly Tynes shares center stage with him as Sally Bowles. Brian and Molly have been best of friends since college days and played these roles more years ago than they probably wish to admit.

The show is staged out of doors with cabaret style table seating as well as general admission tiers. Actually, the higher up seating may be even better as you have totally unobstructed views. The cast of 20 players are in terrific costumes since they are working at the Kit Kat Klub. The Klub is a burlesque club and the choreography is right out of Radio City. Heidi Cline McKerley plays Frau Schneider and Robert Wayne comes on as Herr Schultz.

Lee Osorio is Bradshaw, who is just a visitor at the wrong time and place, and Deborah Bowman is Fräulein Kost, and Edward McCreary is Ernst Ludwig, who symbolizes the political situation in Germany in 1929. The show moves along with live music from a 12-piece band under the baton of Chris Brent Davis.

Yes, the show is performed out of doors, but the staging is terrific, the props move in and out with greatest of ease, and the lighting and special effects are first class. Kind of brings to mind some of the shows you may have seen in theme parks.

The venue is easy to get to, albeit it is a bit of a schlep if you live north of town. And, the weather can be a concern. However, the seating is comfortable, and you can bring an umbrella if you wish; or even buy rain insurance at their website. Bottom line is that it truly is worth the risk, as the rewards are first class.

More info at SerenbePlayhouse.com

30
Jul

Ada & The Memory Engine

Ada & The Memory Engine
Essential Theatre
through August 27, 2017

This is a truly incredible show which intellectually pulls you deeply into the plot as well as the characters you meet on stage. Playwright Lauren Gunderson has obviously done quite a bit of historical research and had to be as intrigued as were each of us in the audience.

The show is set in England in mid-nineteenth century. It is a tale being told of how the idea of a computer seemed to arrive. Lady Anabella Byron was the wife of Lord Byron, who was more than quite a bit of a rogue in his days. And their daughter, Ada had been abandoned by him when he flew the coop. Ada is played superbly by Ashley Anderson, and her mother, Anabella is played by Holly Stevenson. And this part of the story is based on historical fact.

Lady Anabella wants Ada to marry “properly”, ergo to someone of good name as well as good financial status. And to do so, she may have some problems as the sins of the father oft feel as if they are visited upon the offspring. Lady Anabella wants to hook her up with Lord Lovelace (Brandon Patrick) who may be a peer, but isn’t the chick magnet for Ada.

Ada has spent most of her years growing up learning about music and mathematics; and the M&Ms are of great importance to her. Enter Charles Babbage, played by Mark Cosby, and she is delving deeply into his theories as he wishes to design the first machine that can think its way through math problems. In fact, Charles Babbage was a real genius and his Difference Engine and Analytical Engine and others are considered to be a basis for the later development of those things with the typing pads that we all use today.

Ellen McQueen directed this marvelous cast, rounded out by Kathleen McManus and Evan Alex Cole as well as some prop extras who change the setting so easily. As you watch the show progress you start to recall the days of the huge room filling computers being programmed by punched cards, then later with huge reels of tapes; so long before those little chips that hold zillions more info.

If you were around when the computers started to take over the scene just 70 years ago, you’d think, as I did, that were Thomas J. Watson (founder of IBM, born 1874) alive and in the house he’d be diving head first into the story as well. For Ada became known as the first programmer as she and Charles got deeper into binary coding.

The show will run in repertory with G. M. Lupo’s Another Mother, at the West End Performing Arts Center on Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. You can get more info and check performance dates at EssentialTheatre.com

28
Jul

Annie Get Your Gun

Annie Get Your Gun
Stage Door Players
through August 6, 2017

Irving Berlin’s classic Annie Get Your Gun is always a delight to the eyes and ears. Directed by Robert Egizio the cast of 17 energetic players delivers up about 18 classic standard numbers such as There’s No Business Like Show Business, and You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun.”

The show is done pretty much cabaret style on an open stage with some changeable backdrops; for the music and dance is the stuff of the story. Annie Oakley is played by Paige Mattox, and Michael L. Pugh is Buffalo Bill Cody. And, George Devours struts his stuff as Sitting Bull, while Bryant Smith, as Frank Butler woos Annie. There were some slight tweaks to update the script a bit, but the story is the same.

The competing shows aren’t doing so well, as the performers try to get the upper hand. As they both seem to be failing, maybe it would be better if they could join forces. But, there’s always that little problem of who is the better shot; and as between Annie and Frank, trying to figure out who can do something better than the other.

The costumes and props are neat, and the choral singing and dance numbers are just a delightful dose of eye candy. It’s a pleasure to sit through a happy tunes musical where nobody gets killed.

A very good production in a very comfortable venue; and selling out fast. More info at StageDoorPlayers.net

27
Jul

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Aurora Theatre
through August 27, 2017

This is the musical version of the Hunchback, based on Victor Hugo’s classic tale, and with the music from the Disney film. Directed by Justin Anderson with a cast of more than two dozen players, on a superb set by Shannon Robert, the show tells the story of the young lad with the hump on his back being cooped up in a bell tower by a nasty relative who is a clergyman.

The lad is named Quasimodo suggesting he is only part human. He’s played to the hilt by Haden Rider. The Archdeacon Frollo is David de Vries. As you know, there is a gypsy lass, Esmeralda (Julissa Sabino), who is being badly treated;  as those who are of gypsy, or Romani heritage, are thought to be base criminals and they are sought after to be excluded from Parisian society. And Esmeralda has feelings for the hunchback, who turns out to be more humane than most of the other folks in many ways.

The other two leads are Kevin Harry as Clopin Trouillefou and Lowrey Brown as Captain Phoebus. The band of 9 players off-stage are under the baton of Ann-Carol Pence, and they are all spot-on as they run through more than 30 numbers in this Broadway quality production. I wish I could tell you that all comes out nicely in the end, but you probably know the story from your school days.

One aspect of this show is to bring out how those who are in political control don’t always make the best decisions. And it brings to mind the saying of George Santayana who opined that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

It is also really good to learn that this is another co-production so that two houses can merge talents and funds to bring such good productions to local audiences. The Aurora is in Lawrenceville; and this show will travel into downtown Atlanta opening on September 7th as part of the Theatrical Outfit’s year, but staged at The Rialto Center for the Arts.

More info and tickets easily found at AuroraTheatre.com This one is a solid ten on the proverbial scale.

23
Jul

Heathers, the Musical

Heathers, the Musical
OnStage Atlanta
through August 13, 2017

This is NOT the usual family style musical, in any way. Based on a 1988 cult film, it is a show noir.   Suicide, bullying, murder, and more pervade the plot. And in a culture where teen suicide is rising at alarming rates, one may have some concerns about this topic for certain potential viewers. It is not for depressed youngsters or others who have had losses in their families or suffered in their teen years in schools.

Having issued the above warning, I can tell you that Onstage has produced this one with great effort and talent.  Directed by Charlie Miller, with a live band and a cast of 19 players, the show moves quite well.

There are three bitchy girls each named Heather and they are played by Janine DeMichele Baggett, Sarah Watkins and Molly Wiley. They are totally self-possessed in every way. The two jocks are played by Joshua Jones and Austin Basham and Hannah Lake is Veronica, the girl who gets drafted into the Heather’s club.

The score of two dozen numbers is possibly best remembered for the Candy Store number; and you can infer what you wish from the title. Other sordid numbers include Dead Girl Walking, and the Me inside of Me.  It is all about teens trying to find themselves, and their raison d’etre. And, there is some question as to the personalities of two of the boys, as to their sexual preferences or orientations.

Be advised that the show includes some of the 7 words you can’t say on TV, teen sex, fighting and shooting.   But, the bottom line is that most of the audience had seen the film, and enjoyed the stage production.

More info at OnstageAtlanta.com

22
Jul

Life Could be a Dream

Life Could be a Dream
Art Station Theatre
through July 30, 2017

Art Station has put together a really neat production of Roger Bean’s opus dealing with the doo-wop singers of days gone by. Under the direction of Karen Beyer, a cast of five players sing, dance and clown their way through 19 numbers, with live band just off-stage.

Jacob Jones is a nerdy young man living with his mother. He wants to enter a contest being run by a local radio station where the winner will get a record contract. He hooks up with two buddies, played by Nathan Hesse and Rodney Witherspoon, II. After some back and forth decision making, The group, Denny and the Dreamers start to prep for the gig.

Then a fourth guy shows up. Clay Mote plays a garage guy who works for the firm that is going to sponsor the contest, and he and the boss’s daughter (Joy Walters) have eyes for one another. There’s a lot of teen age stress. Like the girls’ parents wanting to control her choice of boyfriends, and mother of Denny who keeps nagging him to get a job.

But the show is about the music, starting off with Life Could be a Dream (Sh Boom), including Runaround Sue, Unchained Melody and so much more. Even Rama Lama Ding Dong. If you have an AARP card, you’ll probably try to sing along.

Patrick Hutchison, Dik Holland and Jonathan Mills are the band, just off stage left. You’ll enjoy the songs, the dance routines and the acrobatics; nobody gets killed in this one.  Art Station is easy to get to in Stone Mountain Village and they have goodies available and art galleries as well.
More info at ArtStation.org

21
Jul

Blackberry Daze

Blackberry Daze
Horizon Theatre
through August 27, 2017

We are soooo fortunate in our area to have so many local theatre companies working so hard to add to our quality of life. This work is another example of a high energy story being presented by a cast of superb actors, with good costumes, sets, music and choreography.

It is a story set in Virginia after WWI, where you meet up with Herman Camm (TC Carson) a slick talking and snazzy dressing scum-bag womanizer who is working his routines with several local ladies. He gets involved with May Lou (Naomi Lavette) and also with her daughter, Carrie (Ayana Reed). But, there’s also an attraction to a local singer named Pearl (Brittany Inge) who he has the hots for. He wants you to believe everything that comes out of his mouth. Even though he is not a politician.

Things get dodgy when Willie (Christian Magby) comes home from the war, and sees what is going on in town. Things get testy and Herman gets what he deserves. But, you’ll know that from the start as then the tale goes back to weave together the fabric of deception which created the outcome. Christy Clark rounds out the cast playing four supporting roles.

The show is a difficult story set to music by William Knowles and with a script by Ruth P. Watson and Thomas W. Jones, II, who also directed this production derived from the book, Blackberry Days of Summer by miss Watson. And TC Carson was in the cast as Herman Camm when the show premiered last year, and has come to town to reprise the role. S. Renee Clark on piano and Spencer Bean on guitar provide the on-stage music and the story moves on with great aplomb.

There are some very harsh segments, and this is not one for the kiddies. But, it does take you back in time to hard days for many people trying to find their ways through the forest of life.

The Horizon is in Little Five Points, with free parking and easy to get to. More info at HorizonTheatre.com