Mar. 15th, 2017

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March 2: Peter and the Starcatcher, Constellation Theatre

Charming, adorable, I got to see Officer Lockstock in a bright purple corset. Peter and the Starcatcher is right up Constellation's alley - charming, epic, requires a big cast doing impressive movement work to create that epic sensibility in a tiny space. Unlike the original production, the charm here comes less from the staging and more from the character performances themselves: Megan Graves is always one of my favourites because she plays wide-eyed, innocent but intelligent girls on the brink of no longer being children so well. She doesn't always play child characters precisely, but she's generally cast because she has a young playing age and is so damned good at playing the cusp of change. (Other work has been the daughter in The Little Foxes, the best Snout ever in a Midsummer Night's Dream where the Rude Mechanicals are schoolgirls looking up to Nicki Bottom as their most awesome English teacher, and Ophelia in Alexandra Petri's "what if Shakespeare's dead heroines go to summer camp and fix all this bullshit instead of dying" Fringe mashup.) Dallas Tolentino as Peter doing less dance and more sad than usual. But really, it was charming and I loved it.

March 3: Trojan Women, Taffety Punk Riot Grrrls

Branching out from Shakespeare, Riot Grrrls selected this script as commentary on the refugee crisis. Unlike previous work, this one is actually heavily female in character (though like Shakespeare, originally all the actors would have been male). One god and two mortals are men, but the rest are, indeed, the women of Troy about to be taken into slavery after the fall of the city. This production did some interesting work with the chorus in handing them individual lines rather than constantly speaking in narrative unison - it added more women, nameless women, to the toll of victims. But really, this was 90 minutes of being absolutely annihilated by Brigid Cleary's Hecuba. Masterpiece. It's nothing against the rest of the cast, but Cleary stole this show. She was this show.

March 5: Mrs Miller Does Her Thing, Signature Theatre

Pet project of James Lapine, a play with music about a novelty act from the 1960s. Apparently each generation has their Florence Foster Jenkins - the woman of a certain age who gets famous for not being able to sing. South Park reminded us of Wing; the 1960s has Mrs. Miller. Debra Monk is hella talented to be able to sing off key and with no discernible beat - it really is hard work to do something deliberately wrong - but the show itself is kinda eh. It does an ok job of showing rather than trying to tell why Mrs Miller jumped into a touring career (her husband is in assisted living following a stroke, and this is an opportunity for her to escape her fears and responsibilities while claiming to be supporting her responsibilities because it subsidizes the nursing home), but it doesn't really do the same for the young people who have set her up in this bullshit. It tries to hit some of the counterculture and political issues but not particularly well. It randomly gives actual voice to one of the professional backup singers but not to the others we've spent the same amount of stage time with (the black woman gets a solid political statement; the gay man and the white woman don't). I can see what he's trying to do, but it needs loads more work.

March 6: League of Youth, Shakespeare Theatre ReDiscovery Reading

Ibsen wrote a comedy! No seriously, it's like a rough draft for Enemy of the People but funny. Outsider shakes up small-town politics by giving asshole "tear it all down" speech as part of independence day festivities,then has to live up to his promise by forming a new party, standing in the next election, and actually doing something. Except he doesn't, because he has no platform, no intent, and can't get a girl to marry him immediately so he can make the property qualification. It was originally Ibsen making fun of a fellow playwright who also had opposing political pretensions; Jeffery Hatcher did this adaptation which cuts a number of characters and makes the basic plot thread comprehensible to Americans. He joked in his introductory speech that the title should be something more like "Henrik Ibsen's Youth Patrol" - the Norwegian here is really more on the march but in an over the top fashion. And of course the audience is hearing every possible Trump or Bannon resonance. But really, it's just so much fun to see Cody Nickell and Dorea Schmidt and Michael Toleydo and Greg Linington have fun with a text. I love these readings because they get people I love to do some really random stuff and everyone has such a good time doing it.

March 10: Fickle, Olney Theatre Center

Translaptation of Marivaux' The Double Inconstancy, playing hard on the script's commedia origins. With a cast I don't usually see doing commedia. (I mean, it's Marcus Kyd as Dottore, Alyssa Wilmoth as the clever servant, and Mark Jaster as Pantalone.) Very silly, filled with anachronistic topical references (as commedia should be - it's formulaic comic plots filled with slapstick and topical jokes slotted in wherever), and Katherine Tkel looking amazing. Absolutely ridiculous and I'm glad Olney programmed it. (also, female adapter! While Olney isn't a classical company, it's a good reminder that David Ives isn't the only person adapting classic French comedies, even if he is the best, and it's way to diversify the writing pool. Which reminds me - whatever happened with Freyda Thomas' adaptation of The Gamester? It's Regnard's first play, and since The Heir Apparent did well, I would hope it would come back around for full production. The reading was a delight.)

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Mme Bahorel

May 2017

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