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


Driving Miss Daisy







Driving Miss Daisy
Georgia Ensemble Theatre
through July 21, 2019

In addition to GWTW, probably the most memorable tales dealing with life in our area have to be the trilogy of works by Alfred Uhry. He wrote Driving Miss Daisy, as well as Last Night of Ballyhoo and then Parade. Each a significant work in its own right.

Georgia Ensemble brought this work to their stage in Roswell recently and now is producing it at the Conant Performing Arts Center at Oglethorpe University. Laurel Crowe who dearly loves this work for many personal reasons, directs a superb cast of three players, who take us back in time.

Ellen McQueen is Miss Daisy, who ages gracefully through decades on stage. She’s a Jewish older woman who really shouldn’t be driving any more. Her son, Boolie (William S. Murphey) insists he can hire a driver for her; even though at the outset she rejects the idea in every way. But, time works wonders. Rob Cleveland plays Hoke, who is a black man hired to service the lady. The two men have played these roles several times before.

The time is in the 1950’s and things aren’t that good for Blacks in our town, nor elsewhere in the South. The keynote event of the script is the bombing of The Temple on October 12, 1958 and Dr. King’s speech at The Temple in the 1960’s.

Hoke and Daisy find that the glue which binds them to one another is far greater than any grit which could keep them apart and they wind up as the best of friends.

The show moves quite gracefully and you really get to feel as if you know each of these three good people; each of whom is somebody you wish you had for a friend today. And it makes us think how sometimes the more things change the more they may stay the same. Just turn on the news any day. This theatre is easy to get to in Brookhaven on Peachtree Road. Plenty of free parking, a safe neighborhood, good views from all seats and you may recall it as the former home of the Georgia Shakespeare Company. More info at GET.org


Max Makes a Million






Max Makes a Million
Alliance Theatre
through July 21, 2019

It’s really a delight when a professional theatre company can stage a show that really appeals to kids of all ages. And “all ages” may mean from 4 to 94; for all the adults really enjoyed this one act opus with 5 great actors and a live musical trio on stage.

Liz Diamond adapted this one from the book of the same name by Maira Kalman. And she directs this super cast which brings us to meet Max (Ann Marie Gideon) who is a dog with wishes and plans for the future. Max understands that youngsters need not only their feelings of roots, such as being a canine, but also wings to soar to their heights, which in his case is moving one day to Paris.

For Max has some real talents such as doing paintings which are invisible, and writing poetry. He’s may have had some gallery events but who can critique an invisible sketch? And he knows that to get published you need an agent. That’s somebody who always gets a good percentage, and hardly ever really scores a deal.

But things change when Max’s agent calls to say he did a deal for a cool million dollars, and Max can fill all his dreams and do anything and go anywhere. So why not Paris?
Shelli Delgado, Diany Rodriguez, Tony Manna and Thomas Neal Antwon Ghant take the stage in about 20 different roles; and the costumes, moves and props are all first class. This show even has projected imagery which accents what is going on, and you’ll love that everything is going on. Justin Ellington did some original music and arrangements and Eric Baumgartner, Q Robinson and Jordan Shalhoup seem to be enjoying playing the numbers as much as we enjoyed hearing them.

This is a 40 minute one-act show which is absolutely perfect for introducing the kids to theatre. It is on the Hertz Stage at Woodruff Center and there are two shows both in morning hours; so easy to get to, to park, and then go grab a bite. And if your kids got a kick out of this one, you can also go across the plaza to the High Museum where you can help them enjoy some great works on visit. But Max Ernst is not the dog you now know. More info at AllianceTheatre.org


Come From Away







Come From Away
Fox Theatre
through June 30, 2019

Come back in time 18 years to the day that terrorists took down the World Trade Center, and brought NYC and the rest of this nation to desperate thoughts and great grief. It was one of those events that shall always remain etched into our memory with the images from the TV coverage, akin to the assassination of JFK in 1963 and the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

But, with all the news stories centered on New York, the Pentagon and the heroic fight in the plane over Pennsylvania; little was coming out about the support of our allies. Ergo, few of us knew of, nor recalled, that for several days all flying over any part of the USA was closed off, including commercial aircraft coming in from abroad. The shortest routes from western Europe often skirted around Newfoundland and Iceland, and many had to stop to refuel en route.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador, is in Canada; and Newfoundland is on an island near nowhere. The small town of Gander is home to an important airfield, which serves both as a military base for the Canadian Air Force as well as serving commercial flights. The total population of Gander in 2000 was maybe 10,000 and many were fishermen.

This musical brings to the stage the tragedy and the humanity of 9/11 and is a series of vignettes as we deal with the passengers and crew of an American Airlines flight which was forced to land there and was detained for several days. What is real is how the passengers were from many backgrounds; Black, Caucasian, Islamic, Jewish, Christian, gay; and children were among them as well as pets who were confined to the luggage hold of the plane.

The passengers were desperate to contact family and friends to advise abut their situation and learn how the others were doing. The amount of info the passengers were provided about the attacks was limited, and the phone system was totally overloaded. So where would these 7,000 passengers and crews from more than three dozen trans-Atlantic flights sleep, eat and live?

The people of Gander stepped up to the plate in a marvelous way. Every personal and community asset was used to house, feed and care for these unexpected guests. It is a true story about some incredible people and it moves each of us. We see it as a living example of the concept that the more we know those of other cultures, the less inclined we may be to harm them. And there is truth in the concept that when we help others we are helping ourselves.

A dozen hard working performers tell their tales by 15 musical numbers played by the onstage band of 8 players. The musical numbers may not be like Annie or Cats, but the essence of the story is one that no one who sees it shall fail to retain. It kind of makes you wish you could visit Gander one day; although few, if any, of us will get to do so. More info at FoxTheatre.org



Appco Alumni Series
through June 23, 2019

Amiri Baraka penned this one 55 years ago, and I guess it suggests that the more things go, the more they can stay the same.

Dai’Sean Garrett makes his debut as a director for this one act show on the black box stage of the Aurora Theatre. Markell Williams shows up as Clay, a passenger on a subway car in New York City.  He’s a well attired and educated Black gent and he has to deal with a goof-ball White gal named Lula, who comes on to him on the subway car. Not likely to happen on the trains these days.

She admits that she lies a lot, but she also has almost ESP abilities when it comes to sizing people up. Their interaction starts off pretty calm, gets to be sublime, then gets to be a fight to the very end. A third player, Johnathan T. Anderson takes the next seat on the car in a cameo role for a couple of minutes as the show comes to it’s end.

Nobody gets killed in this version, although originally one of them did. The name for the show is thought to be derived from the slaves being brought to this new land by Dutch ships coming into New Amsterdam a/k/a NYC. It is not a show for kiddies nor Ms Prim. Yes, there are a few expletives; but more difficult to deal with is the use of the N-word so many times; regardless of which character is mouthing off.

The cast and crew do a fine job on a difficult short run, short script running about 50 minutes. And, hopefully each will benefit from this one as their careers go to the launch pad.