12
Nov

Josephine

Josephine
Atlanta Fringe Festival

The Atlanta Fringe Festival’s objective is to provide opportunities to many deserving arts creators who might not otherwise find a great number of venues in which to display their talents and abilities.

And this pas week they brought to town the one-woman show, Josephine, which has been touring for three years and even played overseas. Tymisha Harris works the house as Josephine Baker, in this deeply moving biography which was created by her in association with Michael Marinaccio and Tod Kimbro, working together down in Orlando area.

If you have some concept of what this nation was like in the early days of the twentieth century you may recall that many black artists and performers, including jazz musicians left these shores to live and work in Paris, which in those days was the cultural center of the universe.

Josephine Baker was born in St. Louis, and had a very tumultuous life. She started her career in the USA but in the 1920’s segregation was still the normal situation be it at restaurants, hotels or more. And she stood up for herself and for women of color and women in general. She hadn’t risen to the heights in America, but when she went to Paris she was an instant hit, even playing at Folies Bergère and even in north Africa.

She adopted quite a few children, of diverse origins which often she referred to as her Rainbow Tribe, and she was very active with the NAACP and other groups fighting for equal rights.

She became known as the Black Pearl, and other nicknames as she became a world attraction. When World War II broke out she was in her 30’s and actually became a spy for the Allies, carrying intel messages across border in her undies. She was deeply involved with Grace Kelly who helped her through some difficult times, and when her days were over in 1975 at age 68, she was buried in Monaco.

After the war French President Charles de Gaulle bestowed membership to her in the French Legion of Honor for all of the great help she had been to so many. But, life wasn’t always a bed of roses. When she had come back to the USA she’d received lousy reviews, had been accused of being a communist, denied service in some restaurants, and since she had renounced her American citizenship and was then a French National, she even had her visa revoked.

She is a idol of so many. And if you think those problems are gone forever, don’t read the news or watch it on TV. For as the French would say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” For info on upcoming events in the Atlanta Fringe Festival just visit them at AtlantaFringe.org

10
Nov

Downstairs

Downstairs
Actor’s Express
through December 1, 2019

Ferocious playwright Theresa Rebeck has brought some eerie personalities to the stage in this work. Irene (Mary Lynn Owen) is a housewife whose life is mostly cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping and being submissive to her control-freak husband, Gerry (William S. Murphey).

The play takes place in the basement of Irene and Gerry’s home, on a really great set by Isabel & Moriah Curley-Clay. It kind of made me think how maybe I could clean up some of my garage junk. Irene’s younger brother, Teddy (Travis Smith), has moved in to the basement and is sleeping on some old couch and dining mostly on dry cereals.

And then the story starts to get stranger. Teddy is working on a “project” about which he says nothing, other than he has no money. He’s doing something with a really old computer down there where the monitor is an old style CRT. He claims he is on leave from his job, albeit we have idea if he is being straight about that one. And, he also tells Irene about some terrible afflictions imposed upon him by fellow employees.

Gerry, isn’t happy about having some crazy in-law living in his basement, and he wants him gone. And NOW. What is a basis of most of the play is that Teddy has made his psychological evaluation of Gerry, and thinks him to be possessed. Of course, Gerry feels that Teddy is a nut case, and they get into it face to face.

What is more important is that Irene finally stands up for herself and there are some secrets she has figured out that make her even more determined to rescue herself, since nobody else can do that for her.

Directed by Donya K. Washington, as her swan song local gig before hitting the road for a new position out west. The show is rife with screaming and some loud bangs that will possibly make you reel back in your seat. It is not for the kiddies, nor many of the Ms. Prims. Although some may think it possibly could be done in two acts, it is just one which is about 105 minutes, and it is a really good job done by all. More info at Actors-Express.com

9
Nov

Swell Party

Swell Party
Process Theatre
through November 24, 2019

Playwright Topher Payne is one of those who can read about an event and see it through different eyes. In this case he goes back to the Reynolds family estate in Winston-Salem in 1932, when a family member may have committed suicide. But then, maybe not; but he was found dead. In real life nobody to these days can state with certainty what actually happened; even if they had read the transcript. Oops . . . different mystery case still pending.

Suehyla El-Attar directs a cast of players, many of whole leave stage and return in flashbacks which could get a little confusing for some of us who can’t recall our phone numbers or names. Betty Mitchell plays the head of the household, Kate Reynolds, and she has a go-fer, Babe (Bryn Striepe) who is quite a number; often behaving as if she were family not an employee. Each actor is in a stereotype role.

The sage churns around the young aviator, Smith, a/k/a Smitty Reynolds (Parker Fox Ciliax). Smitty is smitten with flying, albeit he isn’t always quite certain where he may find himself landing. He becomes enamored of an aspiring actor, Libby (Amanda Cucher) who he quickly weds even though she isn’t quite the Reynolds’ type. Libby has a coach who is a gypsy-like weirdo, Blanche (Jennifer Lee), and Blanche may know some things, or suspect them, but seems to be a gossip monger.

The estate manager is Albert a/k/a Ab (Matthew Busch) and he has some concerns as to what he’s doing and where he’s heading, while serving his days doing his mistress’ wishes. And before the rest of the constabulary invade the premises to go over the crime scene and remove the body, the investigator and family friend, Mr. McMichael (DeWayne Morgan) is trying to get some facts down in writing as well as on an old style recorder. Too bad Alexa wasn’t there . . .

This is not the typical riotous Topher Payne opus. Yes, there are plenty of one-liners, and some comedy rising from tragedy, as you sit there asking yourself who did what, when and how. And, as your own family members might tell you; you are entitled to your own opinion, . . . but you’re wrong.

The production by the Process Theatre is performed at OnStage Atlanta. It is well done, and maybe a little over done, time-wise as it runs almost 2.5 hours. Mor info is at OnStageAtlanta.com

8
Nov

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
through November 9, 2019

The ASO under the baton of Principal Guest Conductor, Donald Runnicles, the orchestra brought to life two grand pieces this week. They opened with Shostakovich’s final opus, his Symphony #15. It’s a pretty convoluted work, and the Maestro gave a talk about the composer’s mind-set and life in under the days of Stalin; who was not a great fan of his works.

This one started out to be based on a toy story line, and he did borrow a theme from Rossini’s Opera of William Tell dating back to 1829. Of course others, like the Lone Ranger have also found those bars quite enjoyable.

After intermission, James Ehnes came stage center to treat us to Tchaikovsky’s famous Concerto for Violin in D major. And he blew the house down. Ehnes is an Artist in Residence with the Dallas Symphony, and is highly energetic. He’s also one who plays all the Beethoven sonatas in venues around the world.

This concert has only 2 more performances, Friday the 8th and Saturday the 9th.

If you miss this one, or if you enjoyed it, know that the ASO in their 75th season will have more coming up. November 14 and 16 they will perform Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand. And before Thanksgiving they will present a world premier of a work they commissioned, Onward, by Brian Raphael Nabors, together with Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Brahms Concerto for Piano and Orchestra #1 with Emanuel Ax on the piano.

More info always online at AtlantaSymphony.org

3
Nov

La Cenerentola

La Cenerentola
Atlanta Opera
through November 10, 2019

You know the usual story of Cinderella, as crafted by the Grimm Brothers in the early 1800’s. But this is not quite the same. Around 1817 Gioachino Rossini adapted a lot of it into his Comic Opera. It is a pure delight to all your senses be you 8 or 88 years of age.

Joan Font has come to town to stage this one, and a grand job it is indeed. Yes, there is the abused young scullery maid who is known as Angelina (Emily Fons). She has those two egocentric step-sisters, Clorinda (Bryn Holdsworth) and Thisbe (Elizabeth Sarian) each of whom has the hots for a prince who is coming to town and will host a ball, as he searches for a soul mate. But, many of the folks who stop by are not whom they pretend to be. For the prince, and his valet take on each other’s persona while the valet susses out who’s who and what’s wanted. Of course poor Angelina is disinvited to the ball by her pompous step-father, Don Magnifigo (Dale Travis)

Guess what . . . she manages to dress up, get out, get noticed, and then get back to the hovel before the Don manages to come back. Ergo, he assumes the gorgeous woman everyone envied at the affair, just happened to look somewhat like Angelina. He was such a jerk he could have run for office is office holders were elected rather than being heirs apparent in those days.

Emily Fons belts out her numbers as a real coloratura, and every member of the cast is really a delight. As the story progresses, there are a couple of dozen sentries and quite a few rodents who spend a lot of time on the set. It isn’t easy being an operatic mouse, that’s for sure. But nobody gets trapped, except the two nasty gals, who get a pardon from the newly crowned princess.

There are both a full orchestra in the pit, under the baton of Dean Williamson, and a chorus of more than 20 singers with chorus master Rolando Salazar. This is another one where you want to stand and shout Thank You to Tomer Zvulun for the great job he has done with the Atlanta Opera.

Of course there are projected super-titles in English, even though you get the gist of the story even without them. Like the one number in Act II, when they sing how twisted stories lines get even more screwed up when you try to unwind them. Reminds one that the best asset of a good liar is a perfect memory. There are but 3 more performances at the Cobb Energy Center, November 5, 8 and 10. So get more info at AtlantaOpera.org.

2
Nov

Intimate Apparel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intimate Apparel
Lionheart Theatre
through November 17, 2019

This show is about folks trying to find and/or deal with their lives, set in New York around 1905. It was a time after legal slavery was abolished, but employment as an industrial serf wasn’t. A young seamstress named Esther (Jessica Briana Kelly) has managed get work her way up to NYC from someplace in the Carolinas. She is hard working poor young woman, who lives and works in a boarding house owned and run by another black lady, Mrs. Dickson (Lisa Carr) who has had her as a tenant for quite a few years and really cares about her.

Esther gets into a pre-internet day’s long distance relationship by mail with a man from Barbados who is working on the Panama Canal project. He is George Armstrong (Rahshaun Cormier) and neither he nor Esther are quite literate. They get notes written and translated to one another by third parties, who seem to know a lot more than one might wish for them to know.

You also meet an orthodox Jewish fabric trader, Mr. Marks (Perry McWilliams), who cares about Esther as a customer and as a person; albeit he must be extremely observant of the reasons why he must always step back; for he is to be wed to a bride he has never met. Sort of a Fiddler thing. The cast is rounded out by Keeta Bell who plays that harlot, Mayme, who gets paid $2 for a trick and treat; and that well-to-do white lady, Mrs. Van Buren, played by Holly Berger.

Myrna Feldman directs this very energetic cast in a story that you may kind of think you may know where it’s going; and everything may not be an easy walk. Yes, George takes advantage of Esther in ways emotional and financial, and lots of times folks aren’t always as they may appear.

But, in the end it is about people, who are people, and how we may try to face up to various forms of distress as we plow through life. This is a well done play, not one for the kiddies. Lionheart performs only Friday, Saturday and Sundays; and there is more info available at LionheartTheatre.org   The venue is easy to get to just off the square with plenty of parking, and they are soooo nice, they even want you enjoy some complementary goodies at intermission.

And once you check out the area, you may want to think of heading back there on December 6th, when Joe Gransden brings a small band and singer, Robin Lattimore to the adjacent dance hall.

27
Oct

La Cage aux Folles

La Cage aux Folles
Out Front Theatre
through November 9, 2019

It was 36 years ago that La Cage hit the stage in New York. Some things were quite different in those days; but then it does bring to mind the old French saying that “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The show title actually translates to a cage of mad women. And you may interpret the word “mad” as crazy or as riled, or maybe both.

A truly spectacular production directed by Paul Conroy, with a cast of 15 incredible players, most of whom come on a drag queens. What you probably don’t get is that most of these alluring females, have appeared in many theatre productions as just average guys. What is such a delight to the eyes, is both the costumes by Jay Reynolds, and the exciting choreography by Jordan Keyon Moncrief.

The story is about a gay couple who live above a night club, La Cage, and Georges (Tony Hayes) the he/him of the duo is the owner and emcee for the club. His “wife” is the ego-centric Albin (Clint Clark) who comes on stage at the club as ZaZa and is always stage center. There is a son, Jean-Michel who has fallen in love with a girl, Anne, and they are engaged to be wed.

But, Anne’s parents would be terribly against such a son-in-law in that the father of the bride is a politician who heads up the Tradition, Family & Morality Party. And the parents of this young man would be a publicity problem for her parents. Jean-Michel wants his parents to come off as “normal” so he gets Dad to invite his long lost Mother to the meet-up; except she had other plans. So what to do? The gent who has acted as his mother for most of his life, decides to show up in drag and come off as Mum.

Some things get even crazier, as the media has found out that the politician is in town and they learn where he is, and the have stormed the premises to grab many shots of Mr. Homophobic at a gay club. So what to do, again? You have to see the show to see how they handle it. Needless to say that all comes out right iin the end (no pun intended).

With a full band under the baton of Nick Silvestri, this one comes off as good as anything you’d see in NYC or London. You will enjoy them all standing up to let folks know that they are what they are and that some days may even be the best of times. Just have to deal with the other days. Remind you of family or some currently in office?

Out Front is easy to get to downtown, valet parking, open bar and goodies, and all seats unobstructed views. More info at OutFrontTheatre.com

25
Oct

Wicked

Wicked
Fox Theatre
through November 17, 2019

You know it is an audience magnet when one of the big touring companies comes to town for more than three weeks, when most of them are booked in for a 5-night run. And the opening night of Wicked played to more than 4,000 patrons, each of whom thoroughly enjoyed it.

With a cast of more than 30 players, a fantastic first-class set and props, live orchestra in the pit and superb lighting and imagery, the company moves through 20 numbers and delights young and old alike.

I doubt that Frank Baum could have imagined not only that his tale of the Wizard of Oz might be the inspiration for Gregory Maguire’s The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West; but that the later revision would find it’s way to Broadway and become one of the highest grossing plays of all time. Right up there with Lion King and Phantom.

Directed by Joe Mantello, you’ll be engulfed in the tale, where Elphaba (Talia Suskauer) and Galinda (Allison Baily) get in each other’s faces. You know one of them had a strange birth defect and that caused her a lot of concern when interacting with others. Some of the other characters you will enjoy are that goofy teacher, Doctor Dillamond (Tom Flynn) , Madame Morrible (Sharon Sachs) and Fiyero (Curt Hansen). Of course you get to see those monkeys and some munchkins and even the Tin Man shows up in Act II.

It’s one of those where the audience yells, claps and screams out and at the end want to stand up and shout out CONGRATULOTIONS to all.

More info at FoxTheatre.org

25
Oct

Joe Gransden: One for the Ladies

Joe Gransden : One for the Ladies
October 27 at Theatrical Outfit
October 28 at Georgia Ensemble

Joe Gransden and his 16-piece Big Band take the stage in two different venues in tow days, to bring down the house with singer Robin Latimore, who belts out dozens of oldies from Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Sarah Vaughan and others.

Joe not only works his magic with the trumpet, but loves to sing as well, doing some of the oldies by Sinatra and others. The show promises to be a great couple of hours, and each of the venues has good views from all seats.

Theatrical Outfit is downtown in Luckie Street and they will provide discounted parking at the garage just north of their theatre. If there’s some big bashes going on downtown just allow some extra time for the drive-through.

And Georgia Ensemble Theatre is north of town, in Roswell, and easy to get to with free parking. So no matter what part of town is your ‘hood, you’ll find a way to a terrific evening.

More info is available at TheatricalOutfit.org or GET.org

 

22
Oct

Safety Net

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safety Net
Theatrical Outfit
through November 10, 2019

Safety Net is a new work from prize winning playwright, Daryl Lisa Fazio, and this is it’s premiere staging. We get to listen in to the love, stress and chaos which occurs among three women. Set in Jasper County, Alabama it is about a woman who is up for promotion to Fire Chief, while she also deals with many other issues.

Daryl Lisa Fazio plays Chris, the woman fire fighter, who has lots of interactions with addicts who overdose, since the EMTs from the fire department are the most often first responders in most communities. Chris has had her own problems, but she also loves her mother, Xenia (Carolyn Cook) who is getting on in years and like so many of us, hates the concept of not being able to do many of the daily activities she once was accustomed to doing.

Enter a junkie named Val (Rhyn McLemore Saver) who was once a classmate of Chris and now is a street person. She is trying to get clean and that is not working as quickly nor easily as she had hoped for. While Val tries to remain aloof, she is pulled into the home and winds up caring for Xenia, while Chris is caring for everybody. Issues are always just beneath the surface, such as whether or not one should delve deeper into the psyche and habits of another, what is saving others and is it safe for one’s self?

The show runs a little more than 2 hours on a nice set designed by Stephanie Polhemus. And Karen Robinson directs this trio of fine actors as they bring the story right to everyone in the house. While the set may stay as Xenia’s kitchen, when Chris comes downstage to address the staff at her fire station, you feel as if you are one of them.

Theatrical Outfit is downtown on Luckie Street. If there is a ball game or some big deal downtown, traffic can be insane. So leave plenty of time. Park in the garage just north of the theatre and you can get a discounted pass for only $6, even if the garage says $15 or more. More info at TheatricalOutfit.org