The Public Squares sketch comedy troupe haven’t had a show in five years, but they are a group of committed professionals who have been busy having kids, finding jobs and just living life since their last show in 2007. But under the capable direction of Brett Tryda and producing eye of Marjorie Preston, the group will be making a comeback in January 2013. Location and date are still TBD, but check back here and at www.thepublicsquares.com for more details. The group writes sketch comedy like Saturday Night Live or Mad TV. They are itching to get back on stage and tear it up.
Marjorie was part of a crew that played the Beck Center for Something Dada’s reunion show, “Dada Turns 18.” A lot of fun was had by a crew that are old hands at improv and can make anything up on the spot. Marjorie got to play a girl in the corner with her hand up all night in “Slide Show” and worked hard to stay in the “Alphabet Game” until the game was called for time considerations. She also got to eat imaginary turkey and sing the “Something Dada Blues” one more time. For future Dada shows, visit www.beckcenter.org.
Ensemble Theatre’s “Miracle & Wonder” is a Wacky Comedy, Smartly Written
By Marjorie Preston
Ensemble Theatre’s current production, the World Premiere of “Miracle & Wonder,” by local playwright Jonathan Wilhelm, is a wacky comedy, smartly written and expertly acted, even though some of the explanations for events come late in the game and are a bit lengthy.
“Miracle & Wonder” is a play about a lot of things: two estranged sisters, Noreen (Lissy Gulick) and Ruth (Anne McEvoy), two best friends, Bernadette (Agnes Herrmann) and Malcolm/Polly Esther (Tim Tavcar), family adopted and real, those left behind, and a mysterious stranger Ziv (John Busser), for good measure.
Bernadette, an uber-organized Kindergarten teacher raised by Jehovah’s witnesses, lives happily with her Jesus-loving mother-in-law, Noreen, as her husband travels for business, but things begin to unravel when she finds out that her husband and mother-in-law may not be who they claim to be. As Bernie visits her friend Malcolm, a cross-dressing man who cares for the dying and complains he’s always “stuck with dead people’s shit,” Noreen’s sister, Ruth, estranged for fifty years, is busy looking for Noreen.
Ruth brings in tow a sort of surrogate son, Luke (Curt Arnold), a single dad now raising a precocious teenage daughter, Sarah (Katie Wilkinson), after his partner, Tim, passed. Sarah’s more cautious friend, Aliyah (Lauryn Hobbs), bears witness to the scene that unfolds when a mysterious stranger, Ziv, begins telling parables to this group.
Gulick is perfectly cast as salt-of-the-earth Noreen, and McEvoy is a bold, yet caring Ruth. Their reunion at the end of act one is touching. It is fun to watch Hermann’s exasperation at the straits she’s in as Bernie, or to guess what Busser is up to as he plays Ziv as, well… whoever people think he is.
Director Ian Hinz tames this series of vignettes that twists and turns and eventually ties together. He has brought a very strong cast for the effort in this heady, quirky play that touches on several holiday themes. As set designer, Hinz has created a rustic cabin feel for the opening scene, with pine walls and doors, comfy sofa and Christmas tree trimmings on the floor. Set pieces and changes for the other scenes are simple and still evocative.
“Miracle & Wonder” can be a heady, abstract concept. But it can also be something right in front of us, if we choose to bear witness about the mysteries of life and those along for the journey.
“Miracle & Wonder” runs through December 2, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at 2843 Washington Boulevard, Cleveland Heights. There will not be a performance on Thanksgiving. For tickets, call (216) 321-2930 or visit www.ensemble-theatre.org. The play contains adult language and themes.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at CVLT is Bubbly Family Fare
By Marjorie Preston
Currently playing at Chagrin Valley Little Theatre (CVLT) is the old chestnut “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This production of the musical hams it up and glams it up with innovative choices, costumes and pacing, making it a more lively choice than most “Josephs” out there.
In “Joseph,” the Narrator (Alexandria Marzullo) tells the story of Joseph (John Kolar), given a coat of many colors by his father to show his love for his special boy. When his eleven brothers hear of this, their jealousy moves them to try to kill Joseph and then eventually sell him into slavery.
However, Joseph is an enterprising, educated young man with the power to interpret dreams, and he rises literally from a jail cell to advisor to the Pharoah of Egypt (Jim Marzullo) overnight when he predicts a famine and moves to save the people of Egypt from certain death.
Kolar plays Joseph as a giddy eternal optimist, always looking past problems to a bright future he believes is right around the corner. The beaming Marzullo shows great flexibility in the role of narrator.
Highlights of the varied musical stylings include the Western-infused “One More Angel in Heaven,” the innovative staging and candlelit singing of children in “Close Every Door,” and the toe-tapping, literally go-go “Go, Go, Go Joseph” performed by the cast in psychedelic 60s mini-dresses and go-go boots. This show also incorporates tiny Elvis impersonators in “Pharaoh’s Dream Explained,” offers a sad, French-flavored song, “Those Canaan Days,” (featuring CVLT mainstay Eric Oswald as the funny Simeon) and a calypso number as well.
Director Michael Rogan keeps the show moving quickly – the audience is in and out in an hour and a half – and has chosen a strong Narrator and Joseph in Marzullo and Kolar. Set and Lighting Designer Edmond Wolff has created a vibrant orange set with Egyptian gods, pillars, sphinxes and palm fronds. Several levels allow the audience to see the large cast easily. Jen Justice has choreographed another fun show (and also capably plays Potiphar’s Wife). Harold Crawford’s varied and eye-popping costumes deserve a nod, as well.
Perhaps if “Any Dream Will Do,” you won’t be choosy about which version of “Joseph” you see. But CVLT’s version is above average – quick, bubbly family fare with flair.
“Joseph” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays Nov. 25, Dec. 2 and 16 through Dec. 16 at Chagrin Valley Little Theatre, 40 River Street, Chagrin Falls. For tickets, call (440) 247-8955 or visit www.cvlt.org. For tickets to the December 2 matinee only, a benefit for the non-profit organization WomenSafe helping victims of domestic violence, please call (440) 285-3741.
On “Akarui” at Cleveland Public Theatre:
Capsule Review found at:
The World Premiere of “Akarui” is a must-see multi-faceted spectacle filled with music, dance, percussion and otherworldly characters. The spirit world plays a large part in this show, where audiences can watch a dead man search for his killer while at the same time learn about the Afro-Brazilian musical tradition of Candomoblé. This bold, thrilling show about transformation involves the audience at times à la Blue Man Group, while offering captivating character portrayals and gripping, pulsing moments.
On “Hellcab” at Blank Canvas Theatre:
Capsule Review found at:
“Hellcab” is a series of vignettes in the life of a beleaguered cabbie (Patrick Ciamacco) trying to be human while driving a Chicago cab at Christmastime. Kern’s fast-paced script delves into the most personal moments of Chicagoans when their guard is down. The great comic timing in “Hellcab” is a testament to both Marc Moritz’s skillful directing and the talents of a stellar cast, including Ciamacco, who learned his role in less than 48 hours. The show is poignant and funny, while it touches on all number of social issues from race, class and ethnicity to mental health and family troubles.
On “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at Beck Center for the Arts:
Capsule Review found at:
“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is a raunchy, fast-paced rock n’ roll retelling of the life of the seventh U.S. president Andrew Jackson. The stellar cast, in fabulous shoes, play out the story of a Tennessee orphan who went on to break treaties with countless Native American tribes and kill the Spanish settlers in the South before becoming president. Dan Folino as the cocksure rockstar plays the loner who hates “the Spanish, British, Washington aristocrats and Indians” in a musical that unfortunately gets cluttered as it tries to cover too much ground.
Ensemble Theatre’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” Acted Well but Just Scratches the Surface
By Marjorie Preston
“Sexual Perversity in Chicago” by David Mamet, the inaugural production at Ensemble Theatre’s new “Second Stage” space, ambitiously tries to cover kinky sex, lesbianism, molestation, premature ejaculation, living together, the power struggle between the sexes, pornography, bestiality, and gender stereotypes, but understandably, in just over an hour, only pursues these topics shallowly. The funny and realistic script seems to have a short attention span, jumping quickly from one subject to another in pursuit of completely covering the entire territory of sexual relations.
It’s 1976 Chicago as we meet the cast of “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” through a series of vignettes about sex. Bernie Litko (Tyler Whidden) is a Chicago lothario who loves to discuss his sexual exploits with his friend Danny Shapiro (Mitch Rose). Danny is a bit more classy and open-minded, but still seems to follow Bernie’s lead and advice about the opposite sex. Danny’s girlfriend, Deborah Soloman (Layla Schwartz) is a commercial artist looking for true love, while her roommate, Kindergarten teacher Joan Webber (Katie Nabors), trusts more in her friends than her suitors.
Joan’s character, for her part, critiques everything Deborah does and even tells her she feels Deborah’s relationship with Danny will only last two months. Despite this foreshadowing, Deborah tries her best to make it work with Danny, and when it does not, at least one person in the play has learned a lesson about the dynamic between men and women.
The actors in Ensemble’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” are quite good – Whidden’s timing in particular is very natural as he slings his bull as the overconfident Bernie. The best writing is essentially Mamet’s monologues: when Bernie spins out of control, decrying the ERA or complaining about the quality of pornography, when Danny explains how Bernie calmed Danny down at a time when he was frustrated, or when Joan addresses two students who are caught “playing doctor.”
Director Ian Hinz keeps the action of his talented cast moving with quick scene changes, absolutely essential to maintaining the momentum of the choppy script. The set is minimal as well in this new black box 39-seater, offering simple chairs, theater cubes, a bar, and a hint of a bed to handle all the scenes.
Mamet’s fast-paced scenes don’t delve far into the subjects they discuss – he hits and runs with realistic seventies lingo and lots of characteristic swearing, then breaks the tension, pushes us away, and moves on to another topic. “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” doesn’t come off as dated; it just seems to be covering too much ground.
“Sexual Perversity in Chicago” runs through November 3, Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. at 2843 Washington Boulevard, Cleveland Heights. For tickets, call (216) 321-2930 or visit www.ensemble-theatre.org. The play contains adult language and themes.