Theater

Crimes of the Heart (review)

Crimes of the Heart (review)

THE PLAY: Three Southern sisters come together to reminisce, cry, fight and ultimately support each other.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This play revolves around the idiosyncratic expressions of the sisters. Luckily, this trio (Maggie Roop and relative RVA newcomers Irene Kuykendall and Lexi Langs) are all delightful. Langs is a bundle of quirky energy, while Kuykendall (whose accent sometimes seems forced) handles the complexity of her character with skill. Of this outstanding threesome, Roop is the stand out. Her sheepish quality is sweet, complex and touching. Matched up with 3 additional fine actors, this ensemble is all-around excellent. Director Steve Perigard has elicited wonderful chemistry from the siblings and made the family adventures winning fun (even though it dips in energy in the last 2 acts). There’s another of Terrie Powers’ spot-on interiors, which extends amazingly in deep directions. Running time: 2:30

 

THE POINT: This play is all about 3 slightly eccentric Southern sisters and this trio delights with their enthusiastic energy and enjoyable characterizations.

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

A Virginia Rep production at Hanover Tavern thru 8/26

 

Lexi Langs, Maggie Roop, Maggie Bavolack (Photos by Aaron Sutten)

 

Hand to God (review)

Hand to God (review)

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.

Tomfoolery (review)

Tomfoolery (review)

THE PLAY: This is a musical revue featuring the songbook of Tom Lehrer, who wrote satirical songs from 1953-65.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Any show about Lehrer has to showcase the words and, even though director Tom Width has added some enjoyable staging, he lets the songs carry the show. Fortunately, he’s cast 4 actors who can sell ’em (with a welcome cameo by Musical Director Paul Deiss). Some of the lyrics can be a bit controversial, but I prefer to think of them as extremely clever and mildly outrageous. Younger theatregoers might miss some of the older cultural references, but they’ll still find plenty to amuse. It’s almost exhausting to stay focused to keep from missing the jokes, but the quartet makes it entertaining and fun (Debra Wagoner’s comic charms stand out, especially in “Oedipus Rex”). Width’s set provides a colorful background, which is augmented by Deiss’s solid on-stage band. Running time: 1:45

 

THE POINT: A non-stop cavalcade of hilarious songs presented with vocal skill and plenty of humor.

 

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

 

At Swift Creek Mill Theatre thru 8/18

 

Click here to watch my interview about the show with Tom Width

Tom on Tom (video 2:34)

Tom on Tom (video 2:34)

Although musical revues are popular entries in Swift Creek Mill’s seasons, the one they’re presenting this summer is a bit more dark, even twisted…but in a fun way.  “Tomfoolery” refers to satirical songwriter Tom Lehrer, who wrote political satire in his songs. I sat down with director Tom Width before a recent rehearsal to hear more about the show.

 

Tomfoolery runs at Swift Creek Mill Theatre thru 8/18

 

 

Watch Video

As You Like It (review)

As You Like It (review)

THE PLAY: A romantic comedy featuring an assortment of Shakespeare’s tropes: banished royalty, broad buffoons, women disguised as men and frustrated love.

 

THE PRODUCTION: For this play, the plot isn’t as important as the variety of exchanges, which requires able-bodied casting to handle the language. In the first act, there’s lots of dialogue that doesn’t connect (the WWE wrestling match is the highlight). Act Two starts with a delightful romantic romp from John Mincks and Taylor Lyn Dawson. After that, the energetic momentum continues. As the primary pair of lovers, CJ Bergin and Rebecca Turner are enjoyable. Humorous standouts include Nicole Morris-Anastasi and Luke Schares (who milks the famous All the World’s a Stage speech). Director James Ricks has added plenty of clever bits to spice up the interactions. He’s kept the pace crackling and added an accordionist (Juan Harmon) for musical zest. Cora Delbridge’s appealing costumes feature attire that’s mostly early 1900s. Running time: 2:35

 

THE POINT: This able cast has plenty of comic energy that comes to full fun fruition in Act Two.

 

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

The Richmond Shakespeare Festival at Agecroft thru 7/29

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

CJ Bergin & Tommy Ryan duke it out

West Side Story

West Side Story

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Gruesome Playground Injuries (review)

Gruesome Playground Injuries (review)

THE PLAY: Eight different times in their lives, a couple comes together with physical and emotional damage.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This is another of those contemporary plays that feels like it was created more for the actors than for the audience. Luckily, this duo creates characters that make the production satisfying. The man’s personality drives the show and Jeffrey Cole makes him lovably spunky. The woman is more reactive and Rachel Rose Gilmour successfully sustains a moody personna. Their strong chemistry brings moments of emotional connection. Director Melissa Rayford has enabled them to flesh out their performances, although it might have been better to place the bed center stage, so both sides could see more of the pivotal moments. Running time: 2:10

 

THE POINT: These actors create strong personalities in this moderately interesting character study.

 

3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

 

A TheatreLAB production (closed)

Romeo and Juliet (review)

Romeo and Juliet (review)

THE PLAY: Shakespeare’s classic about young lovers torn apart by their family feud.

 

THE PRODUCTION: The genesis of this production was mounted in April at VMFA (my review). This reboot features 4 new cast members, is directed solely by James Ricks and runs 10 minutes shorter. As a result (and the venue) this production feels more cohesive, bordering on intimate. Tyler Stevens plays the new Romeo as a plaintive adolescent with an engaging off-hand delivery. As Juliet, Liz Earnest (who clearly feels older than Sevens) shows glimpses of a teenager’s eagerness, but feels strained in Act Two’s dramatic scenes. The two “grown-ups” in the ensemble (Bo Wilson & Melissa Johnston Price) anchor the cast and seem even more pivotal to the conflict. Ricks has kept the show compelling in Act One. The second act seems to relish the anguish a bit too much without fully realizing the power that this drama demands. Running time: 2:25 NOTE: Evening shows are at 7:30.

 

THE POINT: While this production is competently mounted, it never ignites the fervor that makes the play a classic tragedy.

 

3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

The Richmond Shakespeare Festival produced by Quill Theatre at Agecroft thru 6/24

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Photos by Aaron Sutten

A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.

Doublewide, Texas (review)

Doublewide, Texas (review)

THE PLAY: Residents of a trailer park take action to avoid being annexed by the neighboring town.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This play is more about personalities than punch lines (some of the funniest jokes are names of places and businesses, like the Stagger Inn). This cast is full of broad characters that are played at top volume (literally and figuratively). They’re trashy demeanor and Texas twangs are full of fun, especially the boozy antics of Jeannie Goodyear and Travis Williams as a big buffoon. First-time director Michael Fletcher has given the cast the conviction to go all out and he’s crammed the show full of energy. The long pauses between scenes slow the comic momentum and some of the physical gags aren’t entirely successful. Scott Bergman’s set is appropriate with pink curtains and wood paneling. The cutaway to expose the insulation is a clever touch (but the furniture may be a bit too nice and not sure why there’s plastic wrap on the TV). The costumes by Becki Jones relish the tacky. Running time: 1:55

 

THE POINT: This farce was already overblown and this ensemble magnifies it with shameless spunk.

 

3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

At CAT Theatre thru 6/16

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Crystal Oakley and Kent Slonaker (Photos by Daryll Morgan)

Preludes (review)

Preludes (review)

To read this review visit RichmondMagazine.com.

Topdog / Underdog (review)

Topdog / Underdog (review)

THE PLAY: Two brothers share a rundown apartment, a challenging past and conflicting views of the future.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This duo creates a robust yin/yang dynamic, one always pushing, while the other quietly accepts. As the younger, Jamar Jones goes full stop from beginning to end (with some brief insights into vunerability). Jeremy V. Morris masters the older role with a quiet intensity and a welcome comic flair. Their dynamic creates compelling characters. Director Katrinah Carol Lewis has kept the staging nimble, while effectively bolstering the conflicting undertones. Even so, she couldn’t create a dramatic dynamic that could overcome the play’s extended dialogue. The basic themes could have been resolved in one act, but each encounter drags on longer than necessary, especially in the second act. David Melton’s one-room set works well, while the surroundings add an urban impression. Running time: 2:45

 

THE POINT: This production effectively presents two strong actors in some absorbing interactions, but the play’s length dilutes its emotional potential.

 

 

4 Stars (4 / 5)

 

At TheatreLAB thru 6/9

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Jamar Jones and Jeremy V. Morris (Photos by Tom Topinka)

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