Mercury Summer Stock’s “Shrek” A Lively Journey Full of Surprises

Mercury Summer Stock’s “Shrek” A Lively Journey Full of Surprises
By MARJORIE PRESTON
Brava!

www.marjoriepreston.com/brava

Mercury Summer Stock’s current musical production, “Shrek,” with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the DreamWorks film and book by William Steig, tells the tale of an ogre who embarks on a quest that will change the lives of many. A talented group, principals and supporting cast all, make “Shrek” a lively journey full of surprises.

 

The green-skinned ogre Shrek (Pat Ciamacco) lives alone in a swamp believing that “real life is grossly overrated” until Lord Farquaad of Duloc (Brian Marshall) banishes so many of his citizens that they begin to show up in Shrek’s neighborhood. On his journey to rescue a princess (in order to get Lord Farquaad off his back), he actually begins to make friends, including a Donkey on the run (Justin Woody) and the Princess Fiona (Sara Masterson), thrilled to be rescued from a tower after thirty years, even if it is by an ogre.

 

Ciamacco’s Scottish accent is wonderful, he is confident, pleasant and humorous to watch. Ciamacco gets his moment to show his singing skills in “Who I’d Be,” the first act closer. Marshall brings a sly, delicious quality to his short-statured Farquaad, with innovative choreography in his introductory number in the first act in a strong section between Woody’s toe-tapping “Don’t Let Me Go” and Masterson’s skillful mood-changing in “I Know It’s Today.”

 

Every number involving Woody is peppy and infused with soul, including “Travel Song.” His comic abilities are sharp. Masterson shows great versatility in the plum role of Fiona, including comic timing, great pipes and tap skills in her cheerful ode to daybreak, “Morning Person.” The major characters all come from storybook-bad childhoods, but the audience can sympathize and laugh at their foibles. In fact, the schadenfreude is one of the guilty pleasures of enjoying this show.

 

Director and Choreographer Pierre-Jacques Brault has assembled a wonderful cast and slipped in a few Cleveland references for fun. His hard work on the choreography shines most in Farquaad’s introductory piece and “Morning Person.” Set Design by Falcon Productions uses multifunctional rolling, rotating and hinged wooden set pieces painted tastefully to depict the grass and rocks of a swamp or high castle walls.

 

“Shrek” plays at Mercury Summer Stock, Regina Auditorium at Notre Dame College, 1857 South Green Road in South Euclid. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. through June 29. For tickets visit www.mercurysummerstock.com or call (216) 771-5862. Parental guidance is suggested due to some crude humor and general naughtiness.

“The Momologues” at Jackson Community Theater-Ohio Honest and Hilarious

The Momologues” at Jackson Community Theater-Ohio Honest and Hilarious

By Marjorie Preston

Brava!

www.marjoriepreston.com/brava

 

Jackson Community Theater Ohio’s (JCT-Ohio) production of “The Momologues” by Stefanie Cloutier, Sheila Eppolito and Lisa Rafferty is a homespun, yet sharp production of a baudy, hilarious show aimed at moms and others looking to laugh at the challenges of motherhood.

 

The four actresses, Bridget Bazzinotti, Denise Dawson Geissinger, Chanda Marie Schmidt and Tawnya Schlabach Sutton, three of whom had never been on stage before, turn in a true-to-life performance. The show rarely feels like complaining, and though it’s not a traditional play with a plot line, it is a series of humorous monologues about mommy-hood book-ended with some equally funny group discussions.

 

Topics covered include the aches and pains of pregnancy and labor. The ladies ask: why take a pregnant woman’s blood pressure right after she gets off the scale? They discuss pregnant “charity sex” and the “access challenges” of pregnant sex. A late pregnancy baby is like “a guest that has stayed too long.”

 

Schmidt gets a laugh with her comeback to the doctor who tells her not to push: “Stop pushing? Fuck you!” Sutton suggests perhaps the doctor ask questions during labor of someone other than the pregnant woman – “Ask my husband – does he look like he’s busy over there?”

 

Bazzinotti delivers her line with aplomb about her emergency C-section: “She’s got the perfect C-section head. It’s not like those others…” and is immediately drowned out by peals of laughter from those familiar with natural birth and squeezed babies’ heads. A running gag has her repeatedly calling her mom with news, like her hemorrhoids or the sweet smell of a baby’s head. Finally she says of her baby daughter, “I think I finally forgave her, so we’re starting over now.”

 

The women commiserate over loss of privacy, the chance to eat lunch alone, and reading adult level literature. They discuss pregnancy tests, sick kids, and the cost of a date night for parents. Schmidt steals a scene with Geissinger by sliding – in slapstick fashion – out of a high stool while having coffee with her friend.

 

Director Holly Ellen Roby has put in the work to make scene transitions smooth, and the actresses genuinely seem comfortable and warm around each other. The cast and crew, acting as set designers, have pulled together a simple, no-frills set with wing chairs, pillows, childrens’ books and toys, plus a small coffee shop set to the side.

 

“The Momologues” finished its run on May 12, Mother’s Day. The production contained adult language and situations. For info on JCT-Ohio’s offerings, visit www.JCT-Ohio.com.

“Motherhood Out Loud” at Actors’ Summit An Eye-Opening Look at Mothering

Motherhood Out Loud” at Actors’ Summit An Eye-Opening Look at Mothering

By Marjorie Preston

Brava!

www.marjoriepreston.com/brava

 

The regional premiere of “Motherhood Out Loud” at Actors’ Summit, conceived and developed by Susan Rose and Joan Stein and written by a team of successful and prolific writers, runs the gamut from laugh-out-loud funny to moving and sad, while remaining for the most part a relatable and heartfelt show. The first half is mostly funny and relatable while the second half delves more into moving, and at times sad, subject material before returning to a touching and funny finale called “My Baby.”

 

Fourteen writers – Leslie Ayvazian, Brooke Berman, David Cale, Jessica Goldberg, Beth Henley, Lameece Issaq, Claire LaZebnik, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe, Marco Pennette, Theresa Rebeck, Luanne Rice, Annie Weisman and Cheryl L. West – have collaborated to create a collection of nineteen scenes depicting the struggles of mommies throughout their journeys. The topics include surrogacy by gay parents, mothering a boy who challenges gender identity norms, being the odd mom at the park and many other slices of life from birth to great-grandmotherhood.

 

The cast includes Shani Ferry, Paula Kline-Messner, Gabriel Riazi and Sarah Grewitt. Ferry’s sparkling, bubbly personality works best in her new-mom-with-sick-husband role in “Next to the Crib.” Moms will remember their worry over their newborn getting sick, questioning whether they are up to the task, and fierce protectiveness while trying to sleep on the carpet next to their baby’s crib. She humorously calls her baby “a sleep terrorist.”

 

Kline-Messner is consistently good and shines in “Queen Esther” about a son who likes to wear dresses and in “Stars and Stripes” about a mother’s anguish over not being able to protect her adult soldier son in a dangerous world. She brings a believability and a matronly gravity when inhabiting her roles. She delivers words of wisdom as the great-grandmother in “Report on Motherhood”: “Children do not like washing their hair; that is why they need less of it.”

 

Riazi misfires in two of his roles as some of his lines came off too perky for the material, but hits his stride in “If We’re Using a Surrogate, How Come I’m the One with Morning Sickness?” which surely will enlighten others explaining the process of a gay couple seeking surrogacy so they can be a family.

 

Grewitt is fun to watch as the cool, snarky mom of a rowdy boy in “New in the Motherhood,” the patient mom in “Baby Bird” and the empty-nester we see in “Threesome” and “My Almost Family.”

 

Director Constance Thackaberry brings this collection of different voices together nearly seamlessly, though the scene entitled “Elizabeth” seems oddly forced and out of place. Other than this speed bump, the rest of the pieces flow well and evoke reactions such as knowing laughter and nods of recognition as well as feelings of sadness at what time has taken away. Set Designer Neil Thackaberry has tacked a collection of childhood memorabilia to the back wall, giving a sort of homey, “cluttered attic” feel. These reminders of childhood – from the classic baby buggy to the wooden sled and teddy bear – remain constant throughout the production. The show will inform the unenlightened and bring recognition to the faces of others, but the scenes are a reminder of the growth process that kids and their parents go through.

 

“Motherhood Out Loud” runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. through April 21. For tickets, call (330) 374-7568 or visit www.actorssummit.org. The show contains adult language and subject matter.

The Public Squares All-New, Original Sketch Comedy Show Garners Press

The Public Squares, a Cleveland-based sketch comedy troupe, just closed its two-night show run of “Is Speed Dating an Olympic Sport?” or “The Return of The Public Squares.”  Marjorie produced the show and also helped write, act, sing and dance in the all-new, original sketch comedy show.  It was a successful run, the Squares hope to do another show in the near future, and local media, including Cool Cleveland and the Scene, were very supportive.  For a full list of all the articles and listings of the show, visit www.facebook.com/thepublicsquares.