OK, I’m gonna start by admitting that I’m biased. (DISCLAIMER: I’ve worked with The Black Rep many a time; however, the bias may not lie where you think it might.) I’m biased because, as I’ve said many times before – I LOVE Christmas music. I play it all year long. I play it on my birthday in July. Fully 1/3 of the tuneage on my 160-gig iPod is Christmas music. So, that being said; I had a ridiculously good time at this year’s version of Black Nativity.
There’s a street on the poor side of town. A homeless woman lives in a cardboard box under a 2nd story porch. We see a music store, antique shop, and optician’s sign with letters missing. A kid bundled in a hoodie is painting graffiti on the brick wall.“Suggestion box” with an arrow points to the garbage can. "Another tag reads: “Too many things, not enuf poetry.” We see him in action as we enter to witness (and that’s the word I mean to use) the musical Godspell, impeccably directed by Deanna Jent, founder and Artistic Director of Mustard Seed Theatre.
I am still amazed that a play that made me laugh so much in the beginning left me teary eyed at the end with a strange ache in the heart at the end. “Same Time, Next Year” is a play about Doris (Amie Bossi) and George (Andrew Topping), a couple who carry on an affair once a year, every year, for 25 years. Through the years, they share stories of their lives including their spouses and their children and I watched as not only their lives changed, but their characters also.
Some shows should have much longer runs than two weeks, but since Murdering Marlowe closes after next weekend, seizeth the day! This is a wonderfully inventive, clever take on the presumed rivalry between two young playwrights, William (Will) Shakespeare (Michael B. Perkins) and Christopher (Chris, though often called “Kit”) Marlowe (John Wolbers).
Should you see Baby, currently in its second of three weeks at Citilites, you might be as surprised as I was to learn this is Nick Moramarco’s maiden voyage as a director. He has pulled together a smart show with nine actors sometimes all on stage at once in a space the side of a postage stamp. Of course, there is a lot more to direction than moving the players around, but that skill is integral to a show’s pacing. Also, the minimal set on which Moramarco collaborated with GP Hunsaker is dominated by a bed (no surprise there, considering the subject) but it pushes back in the wall when the area in front of it needs to be clear for singing and dancing and such.
From the comments made by playwright Joanna McClelland Glass before the opening night performance of Palmer Park, I take it that her play pretty much reconstructs what happened in the Detroit neighborhood of the title in the late 1960s and early '70s, when she and her family lived there.
Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive needs just the right touch in staging it, a tactful but firm touch. The material can make us uncomfortable, and it must be handled with the probing honesty of Vogel's script. It gets the right touch, the probing honesty, in the current production directed by Milton Zoth at Muddy Waters Theatre.
Of course the man who would create a cartoon about foul-mouthed kids and who would think that a musical about Mormon missionaries in Africa could find a place on Broadway would be inspired to create yet another musical by one of those incidents of cannibalism among lost stragglers through the frozen Rockies.
OnSite Theatre Company has an intriguing new production in its latest offering, the world premier of Hit-Story, by St. Louis playwright Carter Lewis. OnSite Theatre does not stage their productions in a particular theatre, but instead selects venues that enhance the work in question. In this instance, their venue for Hit-Story is Sweat, 8011 Maryland Avenue, a fitness center/boxing gym in Clayton, a perfect location, as the play requires a boxing ring. I am then intrigued and wonder if the play was written specifically for the venue, or the venue was chosen in response to the creation of the play? Just curious.
I’ve never seen “Billy Elliot”, the 1990 film on which “Billy Elliot – the Musical” is based, so I can’t say how effective lyricist and playwright Lee Hall has been in adapting his own screenplay to the stage. What I can say is that while the show has much to recommend it, including spectacular choreography and an attractive and often memorable score by Elton John, it ultimately fails to deliver on its dramatic promise. The story of Billy’s struggle to pursue his dream without betraying his family ought to be gripping but, at least on opening night, it was merely interesting.
I am very glad to be making the acquaintance of the plays of Rajiv Joseph. His Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is one of the best new plays I've seen in recent years. It is a little strange. Half the cast, including the eponymous tiger, spends most of the play as ghosts. But how else are you going to deal with the absurdities of the war in Iraq?