Theater

Red Velvet (review)

Red Velvet (review)

THE PLAY: Ira Aldridge was considered one of Europe’s greatest Shakespearean actors in the 1800s. When he was brought to London to play Othello, it sparked controversy since he was the first black actor to play the role.

 

THE PRODUCTION: With his depiction of Aldridge, Jamar Jones has taken his acting accomplishments to the next level. His assured presence and commanding resonance create a fitting fulcrum for what transpires. The rest of the cast is uniformly first-rate with Rachel Dilliplane showing remarkable versatility in 3 roles. The play itself has issues. Among them: the extended German in the opening and the concluding encounters take too long. The scenes featuring the company sparkle, partially due to the comic additions of an effusive thespian (played by Stevie Rice) and the hilarious creation of an impetuous son (Cole Metz). Director James Ricks has skillfully encouraged nuanced character development, while expanding the focus on the central racial conflict to embrace clashing egos and other conflicts. David Melton’s set does triple duty with a brick wall to reference backstage and decorative panels to frame the other scenes. Cora Delbridge’s muted-color, period costumes are attractive. The lighting by Erin Barclay nicely complements the action, although the final confrontation is too dark. Running time: 2:15

 

THE POINT: The compelling leading performance by Jamar Jones and the rest of this excellent ensemble rise above the flawed script.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

A Quill Theatre production at the Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse, Dominion Energy Center thru 2/9

 

Click here to watch my video interview with Jamar.

 

Cole Metz, Frances Saxton, Rachel Dilliplane, John Cauthen, Stevie Rice, Desirée Dabney (Photos by Aaron Sutten)

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

 

 

 

 

Black and Red (video 1:42)

Black and Red (video 1:42)

Red Velvet was written in 2012 to tell the story of 19th century actor Ira Aldridge, who was the first black man to play Othello in London. The local production features Jamar Jones as Aldridge. I visited an early rehearsal to talk with him about the play and the role.

 

Red Velvet is a Quill Theatre production playing from 1/18 – 2/9.

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Talk Radio (review)

Talk Radio (review)

THE PLAY: We’re taken “behind the mic” for an evening shift with a popular talk radio host.

 

THE PRODUCTION: The announcer is played by Scott Wichmann, who nails the character’s caustic, fast-talking style. There are several supporting roles who have brief moments on stage (some also play callers from back stage). Director Morrie Piersol has kept those interactions tight and mostly maintained the pace, although things start to feel repetitive and prolonged just about the time that Jon Mincks’ character blows in to add a buzzed personality. Piersol has effectively managed the activity in the control room to feel realistic without pulling attention from Wichmann (although his assertive portrayal has no problem holding focus). The radio studio is effectively created by TJ Spencieri, while Roger Price’s sound design perfectly handles the complex interplay of mics and live sound. Running time: 1:33 (no intermission)

 

THE POINT: While it doesn’t sustain the gripping impact of the subject’s potential, the production is well-acted and absorbing.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

A 5th Wall production at The Basement thru 1/26

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

PJ Freebourn, Chandler Hubbard, Haliya Roberts, Jimmy Mello, Scott Wichmann (Photos by Tom Topinka)

Roger B. Heard and the Tight 45 (review)

Roger B. Heard and the Tight 45 (review)

THE PLAY: This takes place in a recording studio, where a voice actor has 45 minutes to complete a long list of jobs.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Dale Leopold is a local voiceover talent who plays the title role, but he fails to add any real character off mic. As the engineer, Emily Turner infuses spunk and personality into her role. The script (which credits Alex Mayberry as Lead Writer for this world premiere) has no plot and other than the clock, there’s no conflict. As someone who’s spent his share of time in a studio, I found lots that’s not accurate: the use of a shotgun mic, the talent not wearing headphones and wearing a tie, to name a few. First-time director James Nygren hasn’t enlivened the static staging and has failed to build any tension as time runs down. Dirty Metal Lefty adds some musical moments in the pre-show and final scene. The set is basically a windowed panel for the “booth” with various pieces of equipment strewn around.  Running time: 53 minutes

 

THE POINT: This isn’t really a play, but a showcase for Dale Leopold to demo his voiceover skills.

 

1 Stars (1 / 5)

 

A co-production of Free Jambalaya & HATTheatre at HATT thru 1/19

 

Eric Bogosian talks about TALK RADIO

Eric Bogosian talks about TALK RADIO

After a successful New York run, the film version of TALK RADIO was made by Oliver Stone starring Eric Bogosian (who wrote and starred on B’way). In 1988, I travelled to Dallas for the press junket, where we talked about the film and the play. 5th Wall’s stage version is opening this weekend with Scott Wichmann in the lead).

 

Here are excerpts from that interview.

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The Wizard of Oz (review)

The Wizard of Oz (review)

THE PLAY: The Hollywood classic is brought to the screen with all the characters and familiar songs (and “Jitterbug,” which wasn’t in the movie).

 

THE PRODUCTION: Fans of the film will find plenty to enjoy. The cast does a solid job of creating fun characters (Nicholas J. Pearson’s “King of the Forest” was the audience fave). Of course, having the live dog on stage was a source of constant amusement. The 4-piece “orchestra” sounded solid and the voices were good. The technical elements were on the low-budget side: projections on a wrinkled cyc, weird animation and a few uninspired set pieces. Most of the effects are pretty cheesy and some of the costumes are downright bizarre. Running time: 2:35

 

THE POINT: Those who want to relive the big screen glory (and their young offspring) will find themselves entertained.

 

3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

A Broadway in Richmond production at Altria Theatre thru 12/16

 

Nick Gurinsky, Kalie Kaimann, Nicholas J. Pearson, Jack Saleeby @Denise S. Trupe

Mary Poppins comes to Ashland

Mary Poppins comes to Ashland

After nearly 2 years of renovation and a $2.1M capital campaign, the Ashland Theatre will re-open on 12/26 a three-week run of Mary Poppins Returns. “We wanted to brand the theatre right out of the gate with a first run blockbuster film the entire family can enjoy together,” said Douglas Love, President and CEO of Ashland Theatre Foundation, which operates the theatre.

 

The historic theatre features:

– a state of the art 4K Sony projection system

– 7.1 surround sound

– new plush seating

– expanded concessions

– a VIP lounge with box seats

A separate sound/lighting system and 2 dressing rooms are included for live performances, which will be booked by Broadberry Entertainment Group. They’ll be announced later in 2019.

 

Pre-sale tickets for the entire run (including the special opening day festivities with “high tea” concession specials) will be available online beginning tomorrow 12/12 at 10:00am at www.ashlandtheatre.org. Adults: $10; Children (12 & under)/Student/Senior/Active Military: $8; Matinee: $6.50

A Doll’s House (review)

A Doll’s House (review)

To read this review visit Richmond Magazine’s website.

TheatreVCU alum comes to speak (video 2:38)

TheatreVCU alum comes to speak (video 2:38)

Jason Butler Harner attended TheatreVCU from 1988-92. Since then, he’s gone on to a successful career as an actor on stage and screen, most recently as the FBI agent in Netflix’s OZARK. (Here’s his IMDB profile)

 

He returned to Richmond last week after an 11-week run on Broadway in Bernhardt/Hamlet. He was here to deliver the keynote speech for the VCUArts December commencement. Earlier in the week, we sat down for a chat.

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The Game’s Afoot (review)

The Game’s Afoot (review)

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com
A Doublewide, Texas Christmas (review)

A Doublewide, Texas Christmas (review)

THE PLAY: The titular town schemes to get recognized as a bonafide locality.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Some of the things I said in my review of the original “Doublewide” still hold true:

“This play is more about personalities than punch lines. This cast is full of broad characters that are played at top volume (literally and figuratively).”  

This time, the performances range from competent amateur to wildly overacting (especially Jeannie Goodyear, returning as the outlandish Caprice with equally outrageous costumes). Mike Fletcher is back directing, but much of the staging is flat and the second act loses momentum just when it should be building. The curtain call provides one of the best gags. Scott Bergman’s set bears no resemblance to a trailer and lacks any elements of design (good or bad). Running time: 2:00

 

THE POINT: Any cast would be hard-pressed to turn this silly script into a good show and this group has managed to create a robust community theatre production.

 

2 Stars (2 / 5)

 

At CAT thru 12/15

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Jeannie Goodyear, Lorin Hope Turner, Lisa Way Piper, Crystal Oakley (Photos by Jeremy Bustin)

Who’s Holiday! (review)

Who’s Holiday! (review)

THE PLAY: Cindy Lou Who of Dr. Seuss fame is all alone on the eve of her holiday party. She shares her hopes and memories with the audience in this one-woman show.

 

THE PRODUCTION: When you give a warped part like this to an actor with perfect timing and flawless delivery, you can expect a great time. Kimberly Jones Clark nails it. Her elastic expressions change on a dime and her saavy audience interactions help turn the rhyming-couplet script into a cheerfully raunchy celebration (this is NOT a family show). Director Dexter Ramey surely added some of the comic bits and kept Clark on track, although the show begins to lag around the prison segment. T. Ross Aiken has decorated the cozy trailer set for Christmas (and the slanted wall is a nice touch) and Michael Jarett’s lights add drama and color. Running time: 1:05

 

Since the show is short, there’s a delightful cabaret after intermission with some clever new Holiday songs (and a few traditional ones). It’s performed by either Georgia Rogers Farmer or Shannon Gibson Brown, with musical support from Joshua Wortham.

 

THE POINT: Even though the play wears out its welcome before it’s over, Kimberly Jones Clark gives a wonderfully wacky performance.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

At Richmond Triangle Players thru 12/15

 

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