East Texas Hot Links

East Texas Hot Links
True Colors Theatre
through August 11, 2019

This play is both written by and directed by Eugene Lee. It’s a one act show that dives deeply into the lives of a group of Black folks in some hick town in east Texas. It’s a poor town where the one local drinking hole is owned by Charlesetta Simpkins (Maiesha McQueen) who may be brewing up the hooch herself, just like they still do in many rural communities.

Seven local guys each have their own issues. The issues include seeing a White gal, maybe leaving town to move to Houston for a better job, being overworked and underpaid, and how they need to present themselves. The underlying issue is, of course, the white folks who figure they can call all the shots, even if some of the shots take down a Black person. This is set in the 1950’s and although things allegedly have changed for the better; a lot of what you see and hear makes you think of what you may have seen or read in the news recently.

Eugene Russell, IV plays Boochie, a guy who says he can read people and he sees omens which some fear may be true while others dismiss as being crazy. And Travis Turner comes on as XL, the guy you are thinking might turn on his own, or anybody else, if it were to be to his own advantage.

Wigasi Brant, Gerard Catus, Markelle Gay, Anthony Goolsby and Cedric Pendelton round out the cast of booze hounds. There are ties which bind, but thoughts that loosen ties, and then . . . All hell breaks loose. This is not one for the kiddies, and if your Grandma lived through those days it could be tough for her as well. And, you need to pay very close attention as things develop, for there are often two or more characters speaking/yelling at the same time. The sort of talent that is easier for the ladies than for the gents.

More info at TrueColorsTheatre.org



Art Station Theatre
through July 28, 2019

This is a journey into the tumultuous life and times of Rosemary Clooney. She was born in Kentucky into a dysfunctional family, which went through a marital separation which included some children being ripped apart from one another. She started singing when she was very young, but she didn’t come into the limelight until 1946 when at age 18 she was featured on a record with Tony Pastor’s band. And the story goes on from that point.

Her first big hit was Come On-a My House with Mitch Miller. And over the years she was seen and heard on just about every radio and TV show; and she was a very attractive woman to have at stage center doing her numbers. Her personal life, however, was a roller coaster; with two marriages, 5 children, and a terrible drug addiction.

When we meet her in this play she is with a shrink at a hospital that she was a big benefactor to. And the good doctor is played by Luis R. Hernandez, who comes on in loads of different personae and certainly seems to be enjoying each of them. Wendy Melkonian is great as Rosemary, on the time travel trip of her life, including her attraction and appreciation of some folks such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Robert F. Kennedy. It was being present at his assasination that year (1968) that puts her over the wall and gets her in the psych ward.

Once she fought off her innermost devils, she came back to the stage and performed when possible until her passing in 2002 at age 74. Many more years than one might have thought possible.

In this production Wendy moves the story along with many of Rosemary’s classic numbers, which anybody with an AARP card will recall and want to sing along. Patrick Hutchison, Dennie Durrett-Smith and Steve Florczykowski are the band upstage and everybody is in place and on tune with the action at all times. Directed by Karen Beyer, it’s a VERY enjoyable production celebrating the life of a well regarded performer who had won several lifetime achievement awards.

More info at ArtStation.org



City Springs Theatre
through July 21, 2019

It really is a tribute to our theatre community when we get to see real Broadway quality productions in our local venues. Most of us recall that Hairspray was about a chubby young lady from Baltimore who wanted to get onto a TV competition. Most likely we don’t recall the tunes until we hear the first few bars again, and maybe we didn’t think how this show dealt with the days of segregation in Baltimore and elsewhere. I lived in Baltimore in the late 50’s and when they mention certain streets and areas so much pops up in what’s left of my mind. Of course, like Atlanta, Baltimore has been very much rebuilt; and like Atlanta, certain things which we might have thought had been erased from our society, still quietly lie under, yet to be fully eradicated. So this one really resonates with the audience.

Tracy Turnblad (Jennifer Massey) is the chubby young lass who wants to get on the local TV show hosted by Link Larkin (Chase Peacock). Tracy’s parents fear she will become the object of public embarrassment and they want to dissuade her from her dreams. Greg London is a hoot as her mother Edna, and Steve Hudson is the somewhat wimpish father, Wilbur.

The story deals with two problems. One is the egocentric Velma (Deborah Bowman) who figures she must be crowned as Miss Baltimore, and she has the money and the contacts to ensure that. Maybe today she could have run for office. And another problem is racial division. Whites and blacks didn’t mix much in Baltimore in those days and the neighborhoods were pretty much segregated.

Brandt Blocker directed this superb cast of more than 30 players, and the live orchestra is under the baton of Chris Brent Davis. The costumes and all the production values are a real hit. You will feel as it you are right there in the TV studio as the beat goes on. I guess the bottom line is that it just can’t get no better. Unless they had some Baltimore crab cakes

The company performs at the new Byers Theatre in Sandy Springs. Just off 285 at Roswell Road. Great venue, comfy seats, huge garage, and goodies you may need. More info at CitySpringsTheatre.com


Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Laughter on the 23rd Floor
Stage Door Players
through August 4, 2019

A classic tale told again in a really classic manner. Neil Simon was one of the writers for Sid Caesar, and he and the gang work at Rockefeller Center. The offices had been on the 11th and 12th floors, so he put them together to create the 23rd floor.

Kate Donadio MacQueen directs a super funny cast of nine players, at the time when NBC was thinking of reducing the 90 minute show to 60 minutes, and cutting back on costs; including various perks such as free coffee and bagels. How could they have thought of being such meanies?

Doyle Reynolds plays a writer who is from Mother Russia, and Daniel Parvis plays a Irish chap who is part of the writing team. Mark Gray and Matt Baum are also part of team with weirdo Ira (David Allen Grindstaff). And yes, there are some women in the story such as Carol (Erin Burnett) who is on the team and a gofer for Lucas played by Rachel Frawley.

The young Lucas (Shaun MacLean), is thought to be the young Neil Simon, and Max Prince, is an egocentric character we think of as Sid Caesar; played to the hilt by Robert Egizio.

The scenes through the windows of Rockefeller Center area were done by Chuck Welcome and were a really nice work of art. Like any Neil Simon work, this is a work of laughter aplenty, sometimes set on pathos, in the blacklisting days of Joe McCarthy. And, I can tell you it is superbly done by this cast who seemed to enjoy the play as much as the audience did.

More info and tickets at StageDoorPlayers.net


The Wrath of Con

The Wrath of Con
Dad’s Garage
through July 27, 2019

They’re reprising this one, and to full houses who are going bats (pun intended) about the show. The cast of six players are really putting their all into this one, and the action never seems to abate.

Meg Ansteensten, Anna Giles, Ronnie Johnson-Lopez, Whittney Millsap, Maged Roushdi and Taylor Roy get in your face as a bunch of nerds who want to be what they think they may be, or want to be; regardless of how they see themselves, or think or know how others perceive them.

It may bring to mind gatherings such as the Wrath of Kahn, and some Star Wars scenes; but this isn’t either of those. It is taking place in a hotel room where the Con is in sessions and you can be glad you aren’t in the room next door. Scott Warren has directed this high energy meeting of the minds, or whatever . . .

The back-lit imagery of the evil one, sets the route to be soon traveled, and they all take off on it. Most of the audience on opening night probably had seen this one before at Dad’s Garage and they couldn’t control their excitement as the tale of nerds unfolds. It may not be quite the show for a lot of the AARP crowd or some Ms. Prims, but if you want an evening of very unusual entertainment then you’ll dig this one.

Easy to get to, free parking and plenty of goodies available. More info at DadsGarage.com



Serenbe Playhouse
through August 18, 2019

First thing you need to understand is that this is a period piece. Hair hit the boards in 1968 during the Viet Nam debacle and all the civil unrest of the mid 60’s. The show takes place in lower Manhattan and is a bunch of flower children who are searching for the meanings of their own lives on this planet amidst the apparent insanity of the world around them. But, to that world they come off as the insane ones.

A cast of 19 players and a 6 piece on-stage band play to a small and intimate audience in the meadow; doing 39 roaring numbers, of which the only ones most of us recall are Hair, Aquarius and Good Morning Starshine. It really makes one think of Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury days.
But, here we find ourselves more than fifty years later still in the quagmires of wars where there is no real winning. And therein, I guess, lies the connection to the present day. There is some frontal nudity, which you really don’t see much of, and some single entendre comments, but it is not the essence of the story at all. What it did bring to mind is a quotation from George Santayana who said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

There basically is no set, per se, as it is all about the music. The players are over the top as to working the house. They’re running up and down the aisles in some numbers and speak directly to the audience. It may not appeal to some folks who lived through those years and/or suffered losses to their families; and it may be tough to interpret it for youngsters. It definitely is an unique work and you either like it or not, as these young folks deal with their identity, sexual orientation, racial background, draft status and acceptance into the society of their days.

This is a really good cabaret style production of this rock musical about hippies, directed by Brian Clowdus, with choreography by Bubba Carr and with the band under the baton of Ed Thrower. Two extra special things about the performances through July 21st, are a special appearance of Braden Chapman in drag as Margaret Mead, and the theatre company’s tribute to Bob Farley who we all knew from his days at Georgia Ensemble, but didn’t know that back in 1968 he was brought on board as part of the artistic team for the first touring company of Hair. He is still with those of us who appreciated his work and devotion to good theatre.

More info at SerenbePlayhouse.com