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"The Commedia Hansel and Gretel," June 10-19, Columbia Children's Theatre, 691-4548.
"Lone Star" and "Laundry and Bourbon," June 10-18, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.
"The Testament of Mary," June 10-18, Trustus Theatre at the Columbia Museum of Art, 799-2810.
"The Curious Savage," June 17-28, Chapin Theatre Company at Harbison Theatre, 240-8544.
"State Fair," June 17-18, Ritz Theatre of Newberry, 276-6264.
"Hairspray," June 23-26, Workshop Theatre, 799-6551.
Green Day's American Idiot, July 1-30, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.
"Willy Wonka," August 3-7, Chapin Theatre Company, 240-8544.
"Anatomy of a Hug," August 19-27, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.
Press Releases for Current Shows
Camden Community Theatre
Chapin Theatre Company
Columbia Children's Theatre
On Stage Productions
Ritz Theatre of Newberry
SC Shakespeare Company
Sumter Little Theatre
Village Square Theatre
& Bourbon and Lone Star Characters Charm Audience With a
Glimpse into Their Small Town Lives Through a Lens of Nostalgia
Review by Dell Goodrich
Dynamic characters and ribald humor, scripted by James McLure, in Laundry & Bourbon and Lone Star, (two companion One Act Comedies), are brought admirably to life by the talented ensemble cast of The Lexington County Arts Association’s production at The Village Square Theatre.
The comedies, directed by Debi Young, represent the inaugural run of a Fringe (Rated PG-13, Non-Season) show at The Village Square Theatre. I attended the second night of the run (June 11). What our modest audience lacked in size it made up for with enthusiasm. Laughs were abundant in the house throughout both plays. Community theatre goers, who missed the first weekend of the run should make haste to purchase tickets for one of the final two performances (June 17/18) or risk missing out on a pair of fresh, hilarious shows. Because this run is a Fundraiser for the theatre’s building fund, patrons will also be supporting a member of the phenomenal theatre community we are so lucky to have, in an around Columbia and Lexington.
There’s a lot to love about these two one-hour plays. Most noteworthy is the clear effort that went into the ensemble work in both. These actors are working as teams, not individuals, and it shows.
Both Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star are set in the rural
These two stories were called collectively 1959 Pink Thunderbird, by James McLure. The characters are all connected in one way or another, a common characteristic of small-town life
Laundry and Bourbon takes place on the front porch of Roy and Elizabeth Caulder's home on a hot summer afternoon, where Elizabeth and her social-climbing friend Hattie are passing time folding laundry, watching reruns of “Let’s Make a Deal”, sipping bourbon and Cokes, and gossiping. A high school “frenemy” Amy Lee, who has lately become an intolerable representative of the country club set, arrives unexpectedly and accepts an invitation to stay for a drink and a chat. As the cocktails flow, secrets are revealed.
Julie Fear delivers many strong moments as a seemingly wistful
Debra E. Leopard plays a hilariously irreverent and sharp-tongued Hattie, who admits she has arrived at
The gold-digging Amy Lee, gleefully personified by Jaime Presor, (who told me she usually works behind the scenes and not on stage- but is a natural comedienne) is married to Cletis, the owner of an appliance shop. She is determined to climb the social ladder, come hell or high water. She is on a quest to convince her friends to buy overpriced tickets to the Pancake Supper at the
In a lively turn of events, Hattie, who has just finished calling Amy Lee “tacky” and joking that “Ray Charles picks out her wardrobe”, is horrified to see Amy Lee walk through the door wearing the same dress she is. The exchange is side-splitting, with laudable body language and comedic timing by all three actresses. The two identically-garbed actresses go on to swap barbs with a saccharine, two-faced skill that rivals any southern belle. Bless their hearts. The more drinks the women consume, the more revelations surface. The episode culminates with Amy Lee suddenly acquiring a strangely prim case of the hiccups. A madcap chase around the porch brings the gathering to an end, after Hattie’s attempts to cure Amy Lee’s hiccups-by scaring her- result in Amy Lee vomiting into Hattie’s shoe.
Lone Star, named after the brand of beer we see
The role of
Roy (Kruzner) opens the performance by staggering tipsily across the stage, taking a seat at the edge, beginning to guzzle the aforementioned beer and tunefully singing a few lines of “Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.
“Cowboys ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold.
They'd rather give you a song than diamonds or gold.
Lone star belt buckles and old faded Levi's,
And each night begins a new day.
If you don't understand him, an' he don't die young,
He'll probably just ride away.”
Kruzner, in those few short measures showcases a melodic, fluid voice. He allows the audience to share this intimate moment with him, inviting them to immediately become emotionally involved with
Enter Cletis “Skeeter” Fullernoy, portrayed exceptionally by relative theatre newbie, Samuel Hetler. Cletis is a former class nerd turned successful nerd businessman and is husband to Amy Lee. He is garbed in a powder blue leisure suit, whose pants are hiked up nearly to his chin, reminiscent of Steve Urkel. His geek uniform is complete with pocket protector, thick black-rimmed glasses, and hair styled with copious amounts of Brylcreem. His arrival stirs up conflict in the same way Amy Lee’s did in the previous play. Neither one of them is very popular. Roy, who has always disliked and bullied Cletis, dismisses Cletis’s attempts to join in their reminiscing.
Towards the end of the piece, Ray makes a disturbing revelation to his brother that stirs up violence and rage from
Ultimately younger brother teaches older brother a few things. First, Ray points out that, though
Additionally, Ray is always looking for the silver lining and begins to teach
Director Debi Young assigns Ray the task of making announcements before the show begins. In full character, Vann explains the House Rules, decreeing politely that “…nary a picture or video can be taken” and helpfully informing the audience that there are “outhouses” that way (in the lobby).
Young’s direction elicits 110% effort from all of her actors. This is crucial, as the characters in James McLure's plays demand great emotional commitment from their audience and the actors must give before they can receive. The two plays provide a funny and fairly accurate snapshot of small-town life. The only flaws I noted were within the script. Unfortunately, moments of real substance are somewhat limited by the McLure’s writing. Then again, this is supposed to be a farce. The skill of these actors in embodying their roles, more than compensates for any perceived textual inadequacies.
A modular set provides for simple, clean, and effective staging. It depicts the change in locale, from
Ted Koppel once said, “It becomes increasingly easy, as you get older, to drown in nostalgia.” Such experiences should be familiar to the audience as features of the human condition. By addressing serious topics through a lens of humor, McLure suggests that sometimes you just have to laugh at life. Otherwise you will go crazy. The action of the second play closes as effortlessly and gratifyingly as it began in the first comedy.
The ensembles of both one-act plays are strong and believable and make the most of what the script provides. Smart casting, artful direction and shrewd, intuitive, detail-oriented acting decisions all contribute to the success of this production, creating audience investment and fostering emotional intimacy with them. The assemblage of talented artists featured in this production provided a welcome and entertaining evening.
“Commedia Hansel and Gretel” Brings Exuberance and Laughter to Grimm Tale
Review by August Krickel
A highlight of summer theatre offerings in recent years has
been Columbia Children's Theatre's original versions of traditional fairy
tales, done in the style of Italian commedia dell' arte. That’s an improvisational art form that lives on
today in burlesque, slapstick, circus and pantomime performances. If you go to
the "Archives" section of this site, and do a quick search for
"commedia," you'll find a more extensive explanation; for now, let's
just say that it's broad comedy featuring lots of audience interaction, but
with plenty of satire and topical references for the amusement of any adults in
attendance. The Commedia Hansel and Gretel, written and directed by CCT
Artistic Director Jerry Stevenson, continues in that successful vein, which led
to two previous works running successfully off-Broadway. Seriously - commedia
versions of both Rapunzel and Cinderella were developed by writer/director Sam
LaFrage and premiered at CCT several years ago; the former later won an award
at the New York International Fringe Festival and was picked up for an extended
run off-Broadway - with LaFrage and CCT alum Elizabeth Stepp in the cast - at
the SoHo Playhouse, where the latter is running currently.
That big city success in fact provides some of the initial
merriment, as the actors assembled to perform get excited over being big
stars... until they realize it's a different cast. The framing device features
stock characters from commedia: the ingénue, the clown, the surly wench,
the rascal, and the old guy; when the actors speak with Italian accents -
actually more like a mad hybrid of Wales-meets-Mumbai - they are the Spaghetti
and Meatball Players, a down-on-their-luck troupe about to perform Hansel
and Gretel for us, often breaking character to squabble with each other.
When different accents are employed, they become the chiefly German characters
from the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, often breaking the fourth wall and
interacting directly with the young audience members. Broad acting and exaggerated
reactions carry the basics of the storyline for youngsters, while most of the
actual jokes and wordplay poke fun at contemporary pop culture, and are aimed
at Mom and Dad. For example, exuberant chefs who turn up to help the
evil witch (Frances Farrar) with recipes on how to cook a little boy will be
seen by kids as oddball characters with funny wigs and mannerisms, while adults
will spot impressions of celebrities from cable tv cooking shows. It's the same
gimmick used in classic cartoons, when children laugh as Bugs Bunny is greeted
as "L-L-L-Leopold," while adults recognize a reference to famed
conductor Leopold Stokowski. In fact, Farrar's vocal characterization of the
witch is a cute homage to voice actor Bea Benaderet (most famous as the voice
of Betty Rubble, and as Jethro's mother in The Beverly Hillbillies) in a
classic Loony Tunes version of this same story, 1954's Bewitched Bunny.
Farrar doubles as the hapless children's stepmother, who
constantly forgets their names, referring to them as Bart and Lisa, or Luke and
Leia. Their woodcutter father (George Dinsmore) is poor - mainly because he's
more into the cutting of the wood, but not so much the selling of it - and so
the children are sent into the woods, with the hope they will never return.
Dinsmore adopts a stylized, artificial manner intended as a parody of dads from
vintage sitcoms like The Brady Bunch or Father Knows Best. Julian
Deleon is underused as the narrator of the story, but gets to double in some
amusing cameos, and has the show's best line, when Hansel and Gretel discover
the witch's candy house, and are indeed chewing the scenery. Paul Lindley II
does his usual professional job as Hansel, while Mary Miles's Gretel is a
pouty, whiny valley girl - that would have to be the Rhine Valley - who
periodically breaks into frenzied yet graceful dance moves. Miles is one of
those performers whom I've loved in supporting roles, but whenever she plays a
lead, I end up missing the show, and so it's nice to finally get to see her take
center stage. The performance I attended was packed with just about the
rowdiest hundred little children I've seen in a while, but the cast admirably
took control, forcing the unruly little tykes to focus by cranking their
performance and energy level up to 11.
Humanity On Display in One-Woman Performance of “The Testament of Mary”
Review by August Krickel
Although venerated throughout the Christian world as the blessed Virgin, Mary the mother of Jesus makes few appearances in canonical accounts of her son's adult life and ministry. What would an ordinary woman of her era had to say about the following he attracted, and the events surrounding his execution? As embodied by Elena Martinez-Vidal in a moving and provocative portrayal, Mary is far from ordinary, and resolute in asserting her unique perspective on events that sparked a spiritual revolution. The Testament of Mary, presented by Trustus Theatre off-site at the Columbia Museum of Art, is a stark and painfully realistic retelling of these events as seen, often from a distance, by his mother. While never anachronistic, Mary's account raises questions and touches on themes of more relevance to a modern literary or theatrical audience than to traditional adherents of Christianity. Puzzling, sad, and sometimes even disturbing, Colm Tóibín's play challenges what we think we know, while never endorsing nor completely denying aspects of Christian faith. "I. Remember. Everything." Mary declares with repressed bitterness, and all bets are off as to where her memories will take us.
Tóibín's script presents challenges
for the indefatigable Martinez-Vidal. Best known as the author of novels
- including Brooklyn, recently adapted for the screen with Saoirse
Ronan - Tóibín originally composed this work as a dramatic monologue for the
2011 Dublin Theatre Festival, then later expanded the material into a 95-page
novella which retained the first-person narrative. This most recent
revision ran on Broadway in 2013 with Fiona Shaw in the lead, and was nominated
for a Tony for Best Play. The piece is presented here with an
intermission between two short acts, for a total run time of just over 90
minutes, with Martinez-Vidal alone on stage for the entirety. Mary, a few
years or perhaps decades after her son's crucifixion, relates her experiences
to the audience, nevertheless realizing that the future authors of the Gospels
have determined already the story they will tell.
While the playwright's language is filled with lyricism and feeling, the tone suggested in his words is primarily reflective and detached. Thankfully, Martinez-Vidal is capable of finding emotional depth within nuances of phrasing and imagery, and she captivates the audience throughout. One-character plays often incorporate letters, books, or diaries from which the protagonist reads, allowing the actor to cheat if necessary with carefully hidden cues or outlines of what comes next. Martinez-Vidal has no such luxury, and rocks the material old-school, moving seamlessly from one memory to the next with no hesitation.
Director Paul Kaufman did his own
one-actor show a few years ago, performing in I Am My Own Wife at both
Workshop and Trustus Theatres, making him the ideal choice to helm this
production. His scenic design depicts the cramped interior of a simple
dwelling; a table, a bench, a chair, a few vessels, and the suggestion of
earthen walls, wooden shutters, and a few support beams provide the backdrop
for Mary to bare her soul. Ambient music chosen by Kaufman plays in soft
accompaniment, adding a dreamlike touch. The performance area - an unused,
yet-to-be-developed space off the main galleries on the Museum's second floor -
is tiny, yet lighting by Barry Sparks subtly shifts when Martinez-Vidal makes
even the slightest of changes in posture or position. This is the sort of
production that might normally be seen in the Side Door Theatre at Trustus, i.e.
the intimate black box venue adjoining their main stage; here, some 80 folding
chairs are arranged in a semi-circle, allowing for easier sight lines as well
as more elbow room. (A brief tour of images of Mary from the Museum’s permanent
collection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures takes place a half hour
I remain unsure of the playwright’s intent. There are certainly feminist allusions. as Mary observes how her son is able to speak to women as equals, unlike most of his male followers, whom she sees as misfits and malcontents. His disciples, who first protect her, then later presume to tell her the accepted account of how she gave birth, could be metaphors for modern male hierarchy within organized religion. Yet my sense is that Tóibín’s greater goal is not spiritual at all, but rather to portray the forgotten humanity of a mother who saw her son taken from her, then brutally executed before her eyes. Being told that her son was a martyr for a greater cause does nothing to assuage Mary’s grief. That alone is likely sufficient to offend the most religious, for whom this play is probably not a good choice. Yet the opportunity to see Martinez-Vidal in a dramatic tour-de-force is an excellent incentive for theater-goers who might not otherwise be drawn to seemingly religious material.
The Testament of Mary runs for three more performances at the Columbia Museum of Art: Thursday 6/16 at 7:30 PM, and Friday 6/17 and Saturday 6/18 at 8 PM. Visit https://trustus.org/event/the-testament-of-mary/ or call the box office at 803-254-9732 for ticket information.
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