Aurora Theatre

through February 7, 2016

Margaret Edson, a/k/a Maggie, has been a teacher here in the Atlanta area for quite a few years. In the mid-1990’s she penned this play about a very educated woman who had been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. It had a hard time getting to stage, but finally made it; and made it big as it won a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1999, and went to the screen in 2001 with Emma Thompson as the ailing Vivian Bearing, Ph.D.

It is not a play for youngsters, and could be very difficult for those who’ve been at the side of others who were on the down-slide with cancer treatments. It depicts real life treatment situations, with many props that have been borrowed from hospitals. A static set is changed quickly by the insertion and removal of various props such as a hospital bed and other appliances.

Mary Lynn Owen is Vivian. She’s dressed only in a hospital gown and baseball cap. It’s not an easy role to play. As Emma Thompson did, she shaved her head, to come on as one who has been through a chemotherapy trial as well as radiation therapy. She reminiscences about her career and her attachment to the metaphysical poet John Donne. So, as she faces the inevitable she reflects upon Donne’s descriptive dealings. Not exactly a Dr. Seuss sort of approach.

Her oncologist is Dr. Kelekian, played by Chris Kayser. He is very short on patient involvement, as are most of the medical folks except for nurse Susie (Tiffany Mitchenor). Justin Walker is Dr. Posner who is a staffer and does make rounds seeing Vivian.

One may wonder why some houses wish to produce a play which may not be an audience builder. In the case of this theatre, the Artistic Director and Associate Producer are both cancer survivors and have a deep interest in the processes being developed to help those who may come in contact with the Big C in years to come.

Tlaloc Rivas has signed on as Director, and the cast puts forth a powerful and moving performance; albeit this is one that has few laughs and mirrors life as we may unfortunately know it.

For info and tickets visit AuroraTheatre.com


ASO January 14 & 16

ASO logo

Atlanta Symphony

January 14/16, 2016

The ASO presents a very unusual program this week. With Robert Spano conducting, they do have a wonderful presentation of Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra in C.

With Simon Trpčeski on the piano, the presentation is first-class. Trpčeski, who hails from Macedonia has played around the world and to very apprciative audiences. He is a young man who has the power of an Artur Rubenstein at the keyboard.

The audience was standing with applause and would not sit back down until he re-enetered the stage for a short encore piece.

The first segment of the evening concert is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4. This is not your grandmother’s sort of symphony in any way. First, while he dubbed it a symphony, it is not of the normal type. It is actually a song cycle of 11 very morose compositions, set to a turgidly slow tempo.

The vocals are handled by soprano Tatiana Monogarova and bass singer Morris Robinson. They plod their way through one stanza after another dealing with untimely deaths. Not the sort of thing you need to deal with if you have been through it in real life.

The ASO does present English super-title translations of the lyrics, which are each drawn from very somber poets. And we must realize that Shostakovich was one who lived through many versions of hell, being born in Mother Russia in 1906 and passing out of this world in Moscow in 1975, before Glasnost was declared.

It is not like Beethoven’s 5th, and is more like one of those “been there, seen that” kind of pieces. But, well done with a chamber orchestra on the stage and some unusual percussion in the work. Please note that you MUST get there on time as late arrivals may not be seated once the 51 minute opus starts.



The Book of Mormon

Book Mormon

The Book of Mormon

Fox Theatre

through January 24, 2016

They’re back and going strong. . . . The Book of Mormon opened 5 years ago on Broadway and has generated more heat and press than most shows could wish for. Mainly because of its no-holds-barred satirical attack on the proselytizing activities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When it played here two years ago it sold out daily.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who brought us South Park, were brought up in Colorado area, and had a lot of interaction with the LDS church. They hooked up with Robert Lopez and the three of them crafted this winner. It won nine Tony Awards the first year it played, and the album won a Grammy. No wonder so many albums sold. If you talk to anybody who has seen the show, they won’t be able to recall a single number if they don’t have the album. The music and dance is terrific, as well as unique, but you’ll lose some of the lyrics.

This is the one of the few shows in which the eye candy dance troupe is all male. They’re the 10 young men. “Elders” who are sent out to Uganda to bring some of the natives into the faith. The time is set during the days of Idi Amin, albeit he is not included in the script. But, abuse, murders, and every other problem is present for the folks in the rural community.

Ryan Bondy and Cody Jamison Strand play the two Elders who are sent out from Salt Lake City to join forces with the others who are already there and getting nowhere in a hurry. It isn’t quite what they had dreamed of when they were in training. These two play off each other for much of the humor, and they sing and dance as well. The female lead is Candace Quarrels who plays the young Nabulungi; the girl whose name Elder Cunningham can never get right.

This is a production that is world-class. Sets and costumes couldn’t be better and some of them remind me of Lion King. It moves with ease through many scenes and never lacks in ear and eye appeal. Having said all that, there are two other things you need to know, if you have not already been clued in.

First is that tickets are very hard to find. You can go online or to the box office, but understand that you may not be able to easily score exactly what you want. And this is NOT for Ms. Prim, or the Bible Thumpers. There are enough expletives to impress even a teenager, and plenty of single entendres. If you are one who is easily offended then this might rub you the wrong way. The upside is that while G-d may not be initially respected by the natives, that the essence of the satire is not the religious beliefs, per se, but the sales promotion thereof.

Oops. . . . just heard my door bell ring, and there’s two guys there with white shirts and neckties . . . .


God of Carnage

God of Carnage

God of Carnage

Merely Players

through January 31, 2016

Yasmina Reza’s prize winning opus has garnered great reviews wherever performed and in whichever language it may be done in. For once more we meet humans who may have some odd instincts and drives. Another one of those which does reinforce my thought that the word dysfunctional should be a synonym for family.

Merely Players are a small local company under the direction of Joanie McElroy. They are playing this one in two divergent venues. They will be at Out of Box Theatre January 15,16 and 17 and then they move over to OnStage Atlanta for performances January 22, 23, 24, 29, 30 and 31.

We join a terrific cast of four players who are two couples with a little problem to resolve. Michael and Veronica Novak’s kid got into a scuttle with the son of Alan and Annette Raleigh, and he lost a tooth and will have some dental matters to be dealt with. So what’s a parent to do?

In some situations you know they’d call Motlick & Associates. But, Veronica (Barbara Cole Uterhardt) figures it may be more socially correct to invite that scamp’s parents over for an adult discussion. James Beck plays Michael, who isn’t quite the poster boy for social etiquette. But then, it turns out that nobody is quite the same under their skin as they would present at first meeting.

Googie Uterhardt as lawyer Alan Raleigh represents a pharmaceutical firm which is having some issues, and he lives on the damn cell phone. Jacquelyn Wyer is his wife, Annette, who has her own issues vis-a-vis her hubby and her kid.

So when I say that they meet up as possible adults, that may just refer to age groups and not each one’s hidden psyche. The show runs about 75 minutes without an intermission and it is riotous. You are going to see people you have known in real life, dealing with real issues, which may bring you to realize that we’re all the same in many ways, yet somewhat insane in some.

For tickets and more info visit OutofBoxTheatre.com and/or OnStageAtlanta.com. Both of these houses are easy to get to, have free parking and a coffee pot.


Charley’s Aunt

Charley's Aunt

Charley’s Aunt

Georgia Ensemble Theatre

through January 24, 2016

After their extraordinary run of Calendar Girls, the Georgia Ensemble has come back with another oldie winner. Charley’s Aunt, by Brandon Thomas is one of those VERY rare successes. This work, which premiered in 1892 is a sort of modern day Shakespeare opus. It started off as a production of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and the first run in London included more than1400 performances.

Since then it has played in many languages and formats around the world, including a great Broadway run, and a 1941 film with Jack Benny as the Aunt; and possibly the most remembered version being the adaptation as the musical, Where’s Charley?, starring Ray Bolger.

With a cast of 10 players, the show is sort of a Moliere type of thing where one door opens as another closes, and whatever can go wrong does in fast time. We start off with a couple of undergrads at a posh college who have interests in a couple of damsels. Joe Sykes and William Webber play the guys, while Rachel Garner and Angelica Spence are their love interests.

There is a problem inasmuch as neither girl is free to enter into a relationship without the approval of a gent who is the uncle of one and the guardian of the other. Steve Hudson plays the older guy. And the girls can’t even stay and visit at the guys’ pad without a chaperone being present. Charley has his aunt from Brazil coming to visit, and she would fit in quite well.

Oops! His aunt sends a message that she shall not join them. What’s a gent to do? Their buddy, Lord Babberly (Hugh Adams), gets drafted into posing as the dowager aunt. Not exactly what he had planned for that evening. He’s not at ease in a long skirt which hides his trousers and male footwear. And, it gets even more weird when he gets hit on by Sir Francis (Scott DePoy) who understands she is a wealthy widow, while he is now short of funds.

So now you get the idea. Except who would think that the real aunt, Donna Lucia D’Alvadorez (Joanna Daniel) does show up, and some of the gang who know not who she is, introduce her to Babbs as the alleged Donna. Oy!

A very well staged production directed by David Crowe, in three acts, running about 2.5 hours; it is a night of pure pleasure. Nobody gets killed, and in the end all comes out right. So you know it must be a work of fiction. Full info ant tickets at GET.org