Dr. Seuss, in his 1961 story, "The Sneetches," taught a lesson against prejudice that no Sneetch was different or better than any other Sneetch, whether or not they had stars on their bellies. Playwright Alfred Uhry is exploring a very similar issue of prejudice in The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves' current production, "The Last Night of Ballyhoo."
Carrot, the titular canine in Daniel Damiano's "Day of the Dog," the world premiere of which is being presented by St. Louis Actors' Studio, is a German Shepherd mix and the family pet of accountant Paul and interior designer Julianne. He never appears on stage, but his presence--and his problem--are obvious as soon as the lights go up and Paul enters with heavily bandaged arms and hands.
This movie should be so much better. It squats solidly at the mediocre level, but, mercy! It should have been so much better, what with the proven actor, Dustin Hoffman, serving as director, and a roster of stars that should have sparkled all over the place.
Debbie and Pete were the secondary characters in "Knocked Up." Debbie served as the older, married sister to the character who became preggers after a one-night stand. Now, Debbie and Pete, and their two irrepressible daughters, are the main characters of "This Is 40," another film by Judd Apatow.
Rarely has a book been so finely translated to the screen. By the same token, having not read the book will not alter appreciation for the film. "Life of Pi" is not just the story of a young man who weathers the elements in a lifeboat with a tiger, for, after all, that's unbelievable.
Instead of another slog through a 19th-century Russian novel, director Joe Wright presents a tantalizing melange of art forms -- theater and film and painting -- all enfolded by the words of famed playwright Tom Stoppard. It does not always succeed, but it always intrigues.
This is a complex biopic, not easily accessible without your doing some homework. It helps if you've visited the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Ill. It helps, too, if you've studied the democratic process and know the ambiance of the rough House of Representatives, say, over that of the sedate Senate. Also helpful is an understanding of the parallel lines of the 13th Amendment and the peace treaty that ended our Civil War. "Lincoln" covers these areas while concentrating on Abraham Lincoln, the man of wit and wisdom.
The West End Players Guild tag line is “big theatre in a small space”. They are true to their word with this excellent production of The Seafarer - a powerful, darkly funny journey into the language-rich world of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s native Dublin.
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.
In simplest terms, theatre is a script come to life through the artistry of a capable cast and crew. I know I’m stating the obvious, but bear with me.
From the moment you enter the Kranzberg Arts Center, you sense quality: beautiful renovations, artistically-displayed concession, the open doors of the Craft Alliance gallery inviting theatre goers to browse the current installation (still in progress but already very interesting). Combined, they make a strong, positive first impression, one which is enhanced by HotCity’s comfortable, intimate, well-equipped, 90-seat black-box theatre.
No one is ever more than a few feet from the story, the actors and action. I like this very much. First impressions continue with the set: very clean, modern, smooth walls of warm earthy colors, an up-scale living room with hardwood floors, abstract wall hangings - a simple yet wonderfully appropriate design by James Holborow.
In fact, with only the most minor exceptions (pre-show music and sound quality), these first impressions carry throughout every aspect of the production.
The acting was convincing, strong and sustained. In such an intimate space, there is nowhere for an actor to "hide". Every nuance of movement, no matter how small, and of vocal expression is on display, up close and personal. Shanara Gabrielle as Cassie, Shaun Sheley as Kurt and Sasha Diamond as Tiffany did a superb job.
Lighting by Sean M. Savoie was simple, subtle and added to the telling of the story, most notably in a sequence of light cues signaling the passage of time from evening, to night, to post-midnight, to wee hours - or so I imagined, anyway, such was the suggestive yet suble power of his design. And the same can be said of costumes by Jane Sullivan and props by Meg Brinkley.
So, back to my opening comment. The artistry of actors, designers and technicians – under the able direction of Marty Stanberry – was clear and compelling. Kudos to all.
Now for the words, the play itself.
THE WINNERS is the premier production of this David L. Williams play which won HotCity’s 2010 Greenhouse New Play Festival. It is an interesting, well-conceived piece. A married couple win the lottery - and win big. Now, what to do with the money? And one of their first decisions is to hire an escort, a call girl, who will satisfy all of their sexual fantasies. ALL of them.
No, the play is not for everyone. Act I heavily relies on sensuality and seduction, an arranged meeting of the couple, Kurt and Cassie, in their living room, where the entire play takes place, with Tiffany the escort for the night's activities.
The seduction scenes are well done and tasteful – but not family fare and may not appeal to those uneasy over even suggestions of 3-way sexual encounters, much less the two women's prolonged kiss or Tiffany's partial undressing of Kurt. And there is some rough language throughout.
However, as stated, the scenes are tasteful and – more to the point - slowly evolve into a more sinister tale of money, power, self-esteem, guilt, and, possibly even, a type of love.
By the end of Act I, it is clear much more is going on among these three individuals and in each of their psyches than could have been foreseen. It whets one’s appetite – as good theatre does - for what may come. No one leaves at intermission.
Yet, something happens at intermission, something a bit inexplicable. The three people who stepped onto the stage at the top of Act II were not the same who stepped off at the end of Act I. In fact, they were so different in tone and temperament, in attitude and manner that I felt I was watching a second play, a sequel or revision of the first involving the same people, the same plot, but with characters of a very different mind-set. The tension, sinister motives and demeaning, debasing behaviors exhibited by all three characters were gone.
Why, how, when the rising tide of suspence and conflict was resolved is unclear. And, while there is certainly still a twist in the end, it doesn't seem to follow clearly in kind or intensity from what preceded.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don’t write this to discourage anyone from attending this smart, tightly written, sometimes comic, sometimes tense drama. It is a well-crafted piece. It is a HotCity Greenhouse winner – no small feat. And the playwright, David L. Williams, has more than enough credits to his name to attest to his own artistry and craft.
All in all, THE WINNERS makes for an interesting evening of theatre, in a fabulous space, staged by a very talented and practiced company. And it certainly leaves you talking - always one of the nicest take-aways of an evening of good threatre.