Old Jews Telling Jokes

Old Jews Telling Jokes
Strand Theatre – Marietta

A group of five players took the stage at The Strand to do their schticks as they sort of delved into what might have been the Henny Youngman book of jokes from Grossinger’s in the Catskills, in days of yore.

So many of the lines reminded one of the old “Take my wife. . . .” “Please.” and stories of how an old guy laid on his death bead and could smell his wife’s cooking as she baked some goodies. His dying wish was to enjoy one of her goodies before he left; but she couldn’t allow that, for it was for the shiva mourning gatherings.

The group of players worked on a stage with three chairs, and few props; as it was about the jokes. The audience enjoyed the production even though at least half the audience knew at least 75% of the gag lines. After all, who says an old geezer can’t remember nothing?

The show ran 95 minutes without an intermission, and kept up a good pace along the way. This is a touring company and will be playing in many other venues in the coming months. You may wish to check them out at /oldjewstellingjokesonstage.com/home, albeit postings may not be all that current.



True Colors Theatre
through November 20, 2016

David Auburn’s, Proof, won both a Tony and a Pulitzer when it came out in 2000. This excellent production under direction by Tess Malis Kincaid is set in the Chicago area at a nice home, in need of some repairs, where Catherine lives with her retired father, who was a math genius professor.

The professor, Robert (Gerard Catus) had passed away a week before the scene opens; but Catherine (Fedna Jacquet) sees him coming to her with a bottle of champagne to celebrate her 25th birthday. Catherine has some self-deprecating thoughts about her academic abilities, and has dropped out of college but is now thinking of going back to finish her degree. Robert sees her as being a lot more intelligent that she gives herself credit for.

A former grad student, Hal (Eric Mendenhall), comes to visit as he is searching through many files and note books created by Robert to see if there may be some proof of a theorem on which Robert had been working, that might be published.

Things become complicated when Catherine suspects Hal is trying to steal some of her father’s works and claim credit for himself. Then her sister, Claire (Tinashe Kajese), comes in from New York and wants to take Catherine back to live with her. That is one more stress factor.

The underlying story line is that there is more than just one proof. One proof may be the math which demonstrates an answer to a question and hence becomes a method of proof; while there is also the question of how a woman gets to prove abilities in a male-dominated academic society.

Each of the actors does a great job, and the set by Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay is absolutely magnificent. The time warps may be a little confusing to some of us; but please know that all does come right in the end and the proof becomes obvious.

Playing at True Colors Theatre at the Southwest Arts Center, you can get more info and tickets at TrueColorsThatre.org


The Unexpected Guest

The Unexpected Guest
Onstage Atlanta
through November 13, 2016

Agatha Christie’s play is set in South Wales, at the Warwick’s manor. On a dark night a stranger runs off the road near the house and comes up to enter, only to find the Lord of the Manor dead in his wheelchair, and his wife, Laura (Emma Green) standing in front of him holding a gun. It would look like an obvious murder scene. Were it not one by Agatha Christie.

The dead chap was a sort of meanie who liked to shoot various animals as they passed by his French doors. We never get to meet the deceased, although we do meet his wife mother (Pat Bell), weird son (Dillion Everett), strange care-giver (John Coombs) and the constables.

It is one of those where clues keep coming into focus, suggesting that somebody is the killer. Then other clues show up, sort of in the nature a red herrings. The stranger, Mr. Starkwedder, (Brandon Michael Mitchell) gets deeply into the family matters as well as some intrigues.

Directed by Liane LeMaster and with a nice set by Harley Gould, the cast of 9 players pull you into the story with great aplomb. You think you have it figured out. But, . . . maybe you need to think through it again.

Full info, times and tickets at OnstageAtlanta.com


A Musical Promenade

A Musical Promenade
Georgia Symphony Orchestra

The GSO launched their new season at the Marietta Performing Arts Center under the baton of their new Music Director, Timothy Verville. The event was a delight in the way that the GSO blended music with other art forms.

They had a juried exhibition in the lobby with works by ten acclaimed local artists; and the performance by the orchestra was enhanced by the GSO Chorus, as well as projected images when they performed Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

The first half of the concert started off with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Procession of the Nobles, a short by easily remembered piece; and followed by another short work, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Danse nègre from his African Suite. They followed that with Manuel de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance from El amor brujo.

The second set featured three of Bernstein’s dance numbers, and in this piece they brought onstage some of the players from their jazz band so that they could have a jazz play-off as if they were in Harlem. The audience loved it.

The GSO is now in it’s 66th season and it continues to grow and enhance audiences. The GSO Jazz Octet under Sam Skelton. They will perform on November 5th at the Strand Theatre on the Square in Marietta. For more info on any of their upcoming concerts just visit them at GeorgiaSymphony.org


A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line
Lyric Theatre
through November 6, 2016

A Chorus Line with music by Marvin Hamlisch, was a smash hit when it opened in 1975 in NYC. It won many Tony Awards as well as a Pulitzer, and it was one of the longest running shows with more than 6,000 performances.

It is a show which obviously has a fan club, as well as millions of others who may have seen it once before. It is set on an empty stage in a theater in NYC where a couple of dozen dancers are trying out for parts in a new show. The Director, Zach (Logan Denninghoff), is calling out instructions to the group of dancers who are auditioning. After a few trials he cuts some of them, and then proceeds with the remaining dancers.

At some point each of the dancers tells his/her own story and motivation, as they hope to get the job. It is a show that presented in a stark fashion with no sets nor props. Just hopefuls doing their best, while some, including Cassie (Ashley Chasteen) lament their fortunes.

This production was choreographed by Nathan Lubeck and directed by Ricardo Aponte, who just happens to also be a fine choreographer. The dancing is great and a lot of very hard work and long minutes onstage for the dancers. There are some songs you will recall such as What I Did for Love, One, and the T&A number, Dance:10; Looks:3. They do have a full orchestra in the pit, under the baton of Paul Tate, and the finale with the glitter is spot-on.

The show runs about 2 hours with no intermission, at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre in Marietta. Nice facility, good seating, free parking, and easy to get to. For more info visit them at AtlantaLyric.com


Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Out Front Theatre
through November 6, 201

Out Front is a new theatre company styled as Atlanta’s LGBTQIA Theatre. Not sure Trump would figure out the acronym, but he is in favor of BLTs. But, before I plunge into any punny stuff, let me tell you that this is one incredible production with a fine cast, great costumes, full band on stage, and fine voices and choreography.

Priscilla started off as a film in 1994 and it won loads of praise, as it was right out front telling about some drag queens schlepping through the desert in Australia to get to Ayers Rock area, and how their bus, named Priscilla, breaks down, they meet up with some Aborigines, homophobes, and various sots along the way. The story gets movement from one of the queens who had been married and had a child, whom he’d not seen in years.

The musical is a delightful one with songs you will want to sing along or clap along with, such as I Will Survive, and many others. The facility is a black box theatre, so there are no expansive sets. The show is produced more like a cabaret, but is TOTALLY captivating.

The three drag queens are played by Justin Thompson, Robert Ray and Jason-Jamal Ligon. Michael Shikany plays Bob, the old guy mechanic who joins with them on the trip; and young Alex Hugg plays the son, Benji. What is really cool is that there are two dozen players, and more glitter than you would see at Macy’s for the holidays. Three divas who move the scenes along are Ally Duncan, Brianna Gilliam and Gia Nappo.

The idea of men coming onstage as women is hardly unique. In the days of The Bard every female role was played by a male; albeit probably not as well as some of these queens do. If this seems like an odd show to you, then be advised that it is not offensive, they’re not selling anything other than having respect for one another, and anybody can find total enjoyment in the story and the production.

Paul Conroy, who founded this new theatre has choreographed and directed the show and done a truly fine job. Bottom line is that if you want a really good few hours, with no political BS being spewed out at you, then go to their website and arrange tickets. More info at OutFrontTheatre.com


The Capitol Steps

The Capitol Steps
Rialto Theatre

One of the most timely and hilarious troupes ever to hit the boards, as well as being on the air with their contemporary musical commentaries, has done Atlanta the honor of performing once more at GSU’s Rialto Theatre.

And you KNOW that with all the political hogwash being spewed out at us 24/7, that they had no shortage of themes. Just consider the titles to a few of the numbers, such as The Leader is a Trump, Leader of the PAC and If There Were No Rich Men.

The current cast of this group has actually worked in DC in the offices of 11 Senators and 7 Representatives. As they say, most of whom have since been defeated or placed under investigation. Gee, . . . as the French would opine, “the more things change the more they stay the same.” And you know how to tell when a politician is lying. His lips are moving.

They’re not all bad, but they are great fodder for comedians. So few have the guts, or the ability, that Michelle and Barack have to go live into a schtick with Stephen Colbert.

You can check out The Capitol Steps on utube or listen to some of their numbers and have a good laugh. And when they next come to town, you know you MUST get tickets.

Next up at The Rialto will be a great dramatic dance company, Vertigo, which will be a one-nighter on October 22nd. More info and more upcoming special events are easy to research at Rialto.GSU.edu


The Abduction from the Seraglio

The Abduction from the Seraglio
Atlanta Opera

Mozart’s work must have been a really exotic sort of thing for opera fans in his days. He did derive this one from his ideas of what a Pasha’s life may have been like, and how women were treated in the harems of their palaces.

Originally in German, this version is sung both in German and partly in English, and the story line, as in many operas, doesn’t really run the show. It’s about music, voices, costumes and sets; and the set used by the Opera is quite unique in that it seems to be a picture frame with some projected images, but also some stage area where principals come and go.

Belmonte (Ben Bliss) shows up at the palace looking for his lady, Konstanze (Sarah Coburn) who was captured by some pirates and sold off to the Pasha along with her maid, Blonde (Katrina Galka) who were now owned by the ego-centric Trump-like Pasha Selim (Tom Key), who has become enamored of Konstanze although his affection is not reciprocated, even under duress imposed by the Pasha.

The Pasha’s security honcho is Osmin (Kevin Burdette) who kind of knows that something is afoot; he’s not sure what, but he denies entrance to Belmonte, and is watching his turf. Belmonte hooks up with an old servant of his, Pedrillo (Matthew Grills) who has some privileges as head gardener for the palace, with easy entry and exit therefrom.

The die is cast. Pedrillo and Belmonte decide to plan an escape from the palace with the two gals, and to head home to Europe. First problem is Osmin, but Pedrillo comes up with a scheme that might work. And part of the escape scene is sort of like Abbott and Costello.

The foursome doesn’t get away with it and faces tortuous deaths at the hand of the Pasha. But, fate works wonders. It seems the Pasha was victimized by a relative of Belmonte’s, and he gets the idea that one should not fight evil with evil, and all comes round in the end.

With stage direction by Chris Alexander and the orchestra under the baton of Arthur Fagan, it was a superb production, and one that is a true credit to our opera company and artistic director Tomer Zvulun.

Next up with the Atlanta Opera will be Silent Night, which is about the Christmas eve during WWI when there was a one-day truce by combatants who decided to celebrate together rather than shoot one another; even though their actions were not authorized nor approved. The production opens November 5, at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. For more info visit AtlantaOpera.org



Center Stage North
through October 22, 2016

Moliere is famous to this day for his plays where one door opens as another closes, and anything that can go awry seems to do so. His so-called French Bedroom Farces can be found playing around the world any day of the year.

He did stray off a bit in 1664, when he cast a central character as a phony religious figure. The Archbishop of Paris was so irate that he threatened to excommunicate anyone who went to the play or even read the script. It seems to be soooooo poignant today with all the political rubbish being thrown at us 24/7.

Orgon (Jeffrey Bigger) is a well-off chap with quite an estate and he has a daughter he wants to marry off to Tartuffe (Freddy Lynn Watson) who is the imposter living at Orgon’s home. Tartuffe isn’t quite the celibate you might expect. He has an eye for Orgon’s wife, Elmire (Karen Worrell) and comes on to her.

At the same time, Dorine (LeeAnna Lambert) is trying to help get the daughter out of being betrothed to the con artist, and knows she is in love with a younger chap. And things don’t get any easier when Madame Pernelle (Nancy Jensen) takes the stage as she is Moliere’s version of Hyacinth Bucket.

So we find lovers, fakers, and hypocrites coming center stage. Remind you of some family you know, or some of the candidates on the tube? Will everything come right at the end? You’ll have to find that out for yourself. For as I said on many an occasion if one were to look up the word “dysfunctional” in the OED, it should probably say “see family.”

Directed by Jenifer and Kevin Renshaw, the cast, costumes, set and technical aspects are all just fine, and this high energy rant is Jeffrey Bigger’s goodbye opus; as he leaves us after this one for Colorado to enjoy the snow. The theatre is easy to get to, has free parking, and every seat has a good view of the stage. More info at CenterStageNorth.org


The Ghastly Dreadfuls

The Ghastly Dreadfuls
Center for Puppetry Arts
through October 29, 2016

The Ghastly Dreadfuls, which was created by Jon Ludwig and Jason Hines, returned to the Center for Puppetry Arts once more in time for All Hallow’s Eve and a jolly good time for all. This one is for the more-or-less adults among us, and they say you should be old enough to buy booze if you wish to attend. It is a delightful cabaret and is NOT for the tykes.

The Dreadfuls are made up by Scott DePoy, Kristin Haverty, Jason Hines, Jon Ludwig, Spencer G. Stephens and Reay Kaplan. With a live band under direction of Robert Strickland. The actors/puppeteers go live on stage, and each of them handling roles in 15 skits featuring great puppetry, classic costumes, high stepping dancing, and wanna-sing-along musical numbers.

You may think that puppets are just for kids; and while the youngsters do enjoy visiting this Atlanta theatre and museum; this is one that is playing to full houses of adults and every one of them in the audience leaves having had a really enjoyable break from the political BS news of the day.

So, don’t be afraid to try something different and maybe just a bit eerie. When selecting seats, the better views are from rows C or higher, as some action takes place over the puppet set. You can read more and see times and tickets at puppet.org and buy online or by phone.