Monday, April 29, 2013

Art That Defies the Senses at Galerie Hertz

Tom Pfannerstill: More from the Street
Ron Gregory: Just Rust

Reviewed by Keith Waits.

Entire contents copyright © 2013, Keith Waits, all rights reserved.

Tom Pfannerstill, Krispy Kreme (doz), acrylic on carved wood, 2013.

When is found object art not found object art? In the work of two artists now on display at Galerie Hertz, objects are “found” and used as significant resource, but never themselves make their way into the gallery.

Tom Pfannerstill is very familiar to the Louisville visual arts scene, and the new work here on exhibit continues his amazing string of trompe l’oeil sculptures that have been described by one esteemed sculptor as “genius.” The gallery walls are adorned with squashed boxes, wrappers, bags, cans and other containers – commercial packaging found littering streets and alleyways around town. Distressed to a point where the original purpose begins to be obliterated, it represents the tawdry detritus of a consumerist society choking itself to death.

Yet Mr. Pfannerstill has again discarded these items (this time with more care, one assumes) and replaced them with facsimiles carved from wood and painted in such exacting, replicating detail that never fails to astonish. One must resist the temptation to brush the surface with a fingertip – the better to investigate the reality of each fold, tear or grease smudge. That grungy quality is so fully realized that washing your hands immediately after would seem in order. The one missing element of the illusion is smell. This art should stink.

Tom Pfannerstill, Auto Zone Anti Freeze,
acrylic on carved wood, 2013.
We can also be grateful that the artist doesn’t overreach in his statements about the work, but the results are more than formal exercises in dazzling technique, or overly clever intellectual mind games. The craftsmanship captures the viewer and holds his or her attention long enough to invite the mind in on whatever levels it chooses to engage. When art makes the viewer this active a participant, it competes well enough with the bombardment of digital overload that dominates our daily visual appetite.

The pairing of Pfannerstill’s sculptures with the digital images of Ron Gregory is apt, not only because of a long-standing friendship, but because Gregory here also explores the ragged and neglected aspect of objects that, while occupying more permanent locations geographically, are fixtures suffering from neglect and often found in alleyways and other less-traveled paths. Various waste and storage containers display abused and scarred metal skin, the glossy surfaces deteriorating and revealing layers of rust and raw metal, exposing color and texture that, in its abstraction, becomes beautiful and compelling. Fauvist fields of color are captured, and the great sweeping disruptions of the surface are violent in their impact, creating dynamic compositions that might be the envy of some painters. The artist may have come across some of these images at random; but the choices made are as important as another artist placing paint to canvas, and the expanding of detail to become the entirety of the image is impressive.

Ron Gregory, Metal Roof Panel of Steel Tool Shed,
C-Print on Recycled Aluminum, 2013.
In “Paper Waste Compactor Side Wall,” the painted surface, a vivid saturation of temperature and color tending to gold, is covered with a fine, spidery network of delicate lines. The image is striking for the balance of heat, beauty and first encroaching decay of time and neglect. In another image, “Abandoned Commercial Storage Locker,” the last flakes of paint cling desperately to the object; yet we almost wish they would make their final departure, as they almost distract from the deep hues of red and blue revealed in a magnificent spiral of rust.

The contrast between the two bodies of work is, of course, that while Mr. Gregory’s photographs illuminate beauty that occludes the source objects, Mr. Pfannerstill seems to be reveling in the nature of the object itself. One celebrates the beauty of the effect of the laws of nature on man-made constructions, while the other forces us to identify more transient pieces of our world and compels us to contemplate our own relationship to the object and its symbolic meaning in our lives.

Ron Gregory, Abandoned Commercial Storage Locker,
C- print on recycled aluminum, 2013.
Exhibition closes May 18.

Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sat. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Galerie Hertz
1253 S. Preston Street
Louisville, KY 40206

Sunday, April 28, 2013

“Hamlet” Parody from Bottoms Up Productions Is Funny, But Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Tragedy of Omelette: Prince of Denny's.
Image – Bottoms Up Productions.

The Tragedy of Omelet, Prince of Denny’s

Written by Colby Ballowe
Directed by Amos Dreisbach

Review by Rachel White

Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Rachel White. All rights reserved.

When I first read the title of this show, I thought for sure that it would be a parody of Hamlet set in a Denny’s restaurant. I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in that assumption.  The Tragedy of Omelet Prince of Denny’s went up at the Alley the other night and is the final play of the season for Bottoms Up! Productions. The play, in fact, has nothing to do with omelets or diner chains of any kind: it's pretty much Hamlet with some modern slang thrown in just for fun. That leaves The Tragedy of Omelet somewhere along the spectrum of a full-on parody, and an actual modern translation. I wish the author had gone one way or the other, because right now the play feels like it’s in that squishy place between wanting to be a parody and also wanting to revere the text it is mocking.

There is a great deal of potential in treating Hamlet as a farce, because on many levels the play is pretty preposterous. There are ghosts, there are accidental killings, there is mass death, and most of the characters go completely insane by the end. It’s material ripe for parody. But this script relies too heavily on stereotypes and shock value jokes that tend to fall flat after a while. Even David Miller with his pencil-thin beard and full commitment to be the “playa king” couldn’t quite bring us to the point of hilarity.  A quicker pace, shorter scenes and less dialogue might have helped. Omelet needs to move like a comedy, and unfortunately in some scenes it moves in a bit like, well, Hamlet.

That being said, the actors in the production do quite a nice job and manage to pull off many funny and believable moments. Blair Boyd was very genuinely funny as Ophelia, who gradually becomes more and more insane throughout the production. Boyd captures, in her own charming way, the excessively shrill, needy essence of the character.   

Corey Music is also strong as Claudius. He demonstrates good shows of temper and strong comic timing, and there’s a funny bit when he is in the church praying.  He’s so winning because he’s so genuinely baffled that everyone is accusing him of these crimes.    

Conrad Newman was also good as Hamlet, though there isn’t really anything brooding about him. He has more of a matter of fact energy, which worked as far as the comical aspect of the show. There could have been a stronger choice made for Hamlet; he’s not as extreme as the other characters.  More contrasts and surprises would have made this role work better. 

The stronger scenes were between The King and Queen, and also between Ophelia and Hamlet. Gertrude is Hamlet’s drunken mother, and this aspect of her character ties in nicely at the end when she insistently drinks from Claudius’s poisoned goblet. 

There is also the revelation that Claudius did not in fact kill Hamlet Senior, which is a great idea, and a good twist. More of the plot should have built up to this moment; it’s really the twist that pulls the whole play together.

The Tragedy of Omelet, Prince of Denny’s

Show dates are Thursday, April 25, through Monday, April 29;
Thursday and Friday, May 2 and 3; and Sunday, May 5.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 dollars, or 2 for $20. 

The Alley Theater
1012 Franklin Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40206

Friday, April 26, 2013

New Voices Provides Entertaining Last Note to the Actors Theatre Season

Kim Fischer in Life from a Fishbowl. Photo by Kim Preher.

2013 New Voices Young Playwrights Festival at Actors Theatre

Reviewed by Keith Waits.

Entire contents copyright © 2013, Keith Waits, all rights reserved

These short plays, the result of Actors Theatre’s program of playwright instruction with students from the Jefferson County Public Schools, are characterized by the young mind’s fancy and a taste for whimsy that might be the envy of many adult writers. The development process seems rigorous enough to guarantee that the results, whatever the variance in quality, are structured enough to be actual “plays,” with a beginning, middle and end, and not extended scenes or sketches, which is what often proves to be the case in many local short play collections. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is encouraging to see that this program has foundational principles that emphasize fundamentals.

Of course, the impact is immeasurably aided by the professional grade production values afforded by Actors Theatre as well as the high energy and easy skill of the Acting Apprentice Company, for whom this serves as something of a graduation from their strenuous yet rewarding season of service.

Some of the more fantastical ideas result from academic exercises designed to fire up the imagination. In Cameron the Mango, by Chanze Castro, the titular fruit are anthropomorphized into a society that takes heroic action to escape the jungle and their inevitable fate; while Hannah Watkins’ Life in a Fishbowl, a slight story, gains much through the tremendous charm of Kim Fischer and Kimberley Weinkle as goldfish experiencing love at first sight.

Others show the kind of stories that might preoccupy the mind of a teenager wired into the popular culture: hallucinations resulting from avoiding the proper medications (or are they the RESULT of improper medications) in Jennifer Winstead’s Please; or exploding the comforting clichés of childhood fairy tales in Christine Oser’s Strangely Ever After. A most vivid human/zombie romance results in an errant finger run amuck in a restaurant in Meghan “Bunny” Buckalew’s Postmortem Proposal; and Clare Wolz’ Paper or Plastic is informed by the common first job experience of a retail cashier. The subjects may be drawn from recent experience, but the perspective is surprisingly developed and free from the sort of self-absorption one might expect to find in so young a writer.  

The educational aspect of the collaboration between student and teacher also extends to many on the creative team, with design and education interns involved in lighting, costuming and directing the material.

It is kind of a shame that this program receives such a brief run, representing, as it does, a program that reaches a total of 1,720 students in 35 schools. The audience for the two evenings seemed filled with family and friends, but the entertainment value is rich enough to offer as worthwhile an evening of theatre that one might find on any stage this time of year.

2013 New Voices Young Playwrights Festival at Actors Theatre

April 22-23, 2013

Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

“Murder” at Little Colonel’s Is Like an “I Love Lucy Episode Reconceived by David Lynch”

Murder in Green Meadows

By Douglas Post
Directed by Jamie Lentz

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents copyright © 2013 by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

The Little Colonel Playhouse, known for their mostly family-friendly fare, has been taking some chances with their material of late. Case in point:  their current production, Murder in Green Meadows.

To say the show is not what I expected is putting it mildly. The title suggests an Agatha Christie-style whodunit murder mystery. And while there is a murder or two to be had, there is no real mystery about what occurs in the quiet of the suburbs in this twisted little tale.

It starts off innocently enough. In the 1950s-era subdivision of Green Meadows, some new neighbors have moved in. Joan and Thomas Devereaux (Tracy Bond Bird and John Hess) seem nice enough, and they waste no time becoming close friends with their next-door neighbors, Jeff and Carolyn Symons (Jeff Mangum and Candy Thomas). The first few scenes do have a "sitcommy" feel to them. But we learn pretty quickly via a very dark monologue that this is no episode of Ozzie and Harriet.

Dark secrets are revealed, and the whole thing spirals down a very dark path indeed. To say much more would give away the plot twists; suffice it to say you’ll see some of the twists coming, but not all of them.

First-time director Jamie Lentz has gathered a very solid cast and keeps things moving at a nice pace. All four actors give great performances, but again, it's impossible to go into the details of their characters without giving too much away.

I question the wisdom of listing the scene changes on bright, happy advertisements on either side of the stage; they really belong listed in the program, and they set the completely wrong tone for the show. On the other hand, use of vintage radio commercials to cover the scene changes was quite clever.

On the technical side, Jane Benner’s set was quite authentic and Jeff Mangum’s lighting design set the mood. Unfortunately, on the performance I attended, there were several tragic lighting mistakes that killed the suspense and had the audience laughing at the errors. Hopefully this won’t be repeated.

On the whole, however, this was a fun play, well done and full of surprises. If the idea of an I Love Lucy episode reconceived by David Lynch appeals to you, this show should be right up your alley.

Featuring Tracy Bond Bird, John Hess, Jeff Mangum and Candy Thomas.

Murder in Green Meadows

April 18-27, 2013

Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mt. Mercy Drive
Crestwood, KY 40014

Interview with Gabe Bowling, Actor and Singer/Songwriter

Interview by Scott Dowd

Entire contents copyright ©2013 Fearless Designs, Inc.  All rights reserved.

It is perhaps the most ironic phenomenon of this young century. Women are buying E. L. James’s erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey by the armful. But unlike other cultural sensations like Twilight and The Hunger Games – which are centered on strong female protagonists who are firmly in control of their bodies and their minds – Fifty Shades of Grey’s star is a virginal college co-ed who becomes the voluntary object of a billionaire’s bondage-domination-sado-masochism fantasies. Last year, a largely Canadian writing team decided to have some fun with the source material. The result was SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody, a musical comedy that has gained a small cult-following of its own. Actor and singer-songwriter Gabe Bowling portrays the character of the handsome but damaged young billionaire in the production that is coming to Louisville later this month.

SD:  Had you read E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey before you became involved with the show?
GB:  I read it only after the audition. When I got the call telling me I had the job, I decided I’d better read it as research.
SD:  To be clear, SPANK! is not a sanctioned part of the franchise.
GB:  That is correct. This is strictly parody. Essentially, we are loosely following the plot of Fifty Shades of Grey. But everything that happens within that amorphous blueprint is new.
SD:  With the exception of a few excerpts, I haven’t read the source material for this musical.
GB:  Basically, you have a very damaged 28-year-old billionaire and a naïve, virginal college student. She comes to interview him after her friend, who works for the school paper, becomes ill. When they meet, he recognizes in her a potential partner for his perverse – as some might characterize them – proclivities, shall we say. He sees a chink in her armor, and she becomes the object of his desires, most of which involve submission and domination. Essentially he wants to – I’ll try to keep this PG – be in control of everything she does. That leads to all kinds of other happenings.
SD:  It seems like a story ripe for parody. Are you the billionaire in this scenario?
GB:  That’s me. I’m the Christian Grey-like character. My character is called Hugh Hanson in our show. Reminds me of a couple of other damaged billionaires with the same initials, like Hugh Hefner.
SD:  …and Howard Hughes.
GB:  I hadn’t even thought of him! Makes me want to go back and watch that Leonardo DiCaprio movie again.
SD:  This seems like a “target rich” environment. Tell me about the play and give me an example of how the writing team made this story their own.
GB:  Humor is the through thread of this play. Essentially,  any time sex comes up in the play, we navigate around it. So you’re not going to see an X-rated live pornography show. It is, in fact, pretty tasteful even in the use of language. There is not a lot of cursing; there is a limited amount of nudity. Audiences will definitely see some skin, but it is usually done for the sake of humor. This is a celebration of the book and the surrounding phenomenon – not a scene-by-scene recreation.
SD:  It is amazing that someone with no literary background generated this kind of enthusiasm.
GB:  E. L. James was a typical housewife in a blue-collar community who sat down and penned this book. It is obviously in no danger of winning a Pulitzer prize – but she has sold a bazillion copies. Her book outsold Harry Potter!
SD:  Sales of the book are mostly to women. Are the audiences of the show mostly female?
GB:  By a long shot, the majority of our audiences have been women – I would say 80 to 85 percent. Men who come to see it, with few exceptions, appear to be the husbands or boyfriends. Although I will say I went to see the show in Chicago after I was cast. I hadn’t yet read the book, but I thought it was hilarious. I got really excited at that point to be part of the show because it was so funny and I wasn’t even getting the references! The show definitely stands on its own. You don’t have to have read the book. Men can also come and enjoy the show on their own. But this musical obviously really appeals to women.
SD:  Speaking of “skin,” I gather from the web site that you at least take your shirt off in this show.
GB:  Safe to say I take off…at least my shirt.
SD:  I guess you want to stay in shape for a show like this. Is it difficult to maintain a workout routine on the road?
GB:  The funny thing is that while there are challenging aspects, I almost find it easier to watch what I eat and be a little more aware of my body while on the road. It’s a requirement that the show put us up in a place with a gym. We basically have the hotel and the venue, so there are fewer distractions. If I get a week off and go home, I tend to just eat burritos and drink all the beer I miss at work. So then I have to whip myself back into shape before I go back.
SD:  Do you ever go out?
GB:  I like to get around the cities we visit, but being on the road is like being at work 24/7.
SD:  Home is Los Angeles. Do you have family there?
GB:  I actually have a special lady in Chicago. Being that I’m on the road all the time, we are able to meet in a variety of places. The show has been very cool about sending me to Chicago, and she can fly out to wherever I am. She looks at my schedule and says, “I see you’re in Florida in the middle of January – maybe I’ll come there.”
SD:  How long have you been on the road with SPANK!?
GB:  The show has been out since October, but I’ve only been with it since the middle of December. I had about two weeks of rehearsal before I was on stage in Indianapolis. I’ve been touring ever since with a few weeks off. It really hasn’t been a grueling tour, though.
SD:  You had just been with Million Dollar Quartet before you started SPANK!
GB:  I had some down time – a few months. That was really nice because I did that show for a really long time. It doesn’t matter how much you love acting or how much you love music, you need a break after having done something a thousand times.
SD:  Million Dollar Quartet came through Louisville recently. It was a big hit here.
GB:  I was in the Chicago cast for that one, so I got to stay put. I went out on a lot of the tour promotions, though.
SD:  In Million Dollar Quartet, you portrayed Carl Perkins who had a big hit with “Blue Suede Shoes” in the fifties. When you’re not on stage, I know you have your own music career going. I’ve enjoyed Gabe vs. The Sad Kids. Is that just you? Or do you hire musicians as needed?
GB:   Basically, that is a studio project. I’ve never actually put a band together. I have played some of the songs out with other bands. But for now, it’s me in the studio playing every instrument. I sing everything and write all the songs. I record and mix it all, too, so it’s really a one-person show.
SD:  Who are the Sad Kids? Is the name a reference to Emo musicians?
GB:  That’s exactly what it is. I came up with that name about eight or nine years ago when I was exhausted by the huge Emo scene boiling up. Not to knock an entire genre, but I was getting tired of music by whiney teenagers singing about their latest high school break-up.
SD:  You grew up mainly in the midwest. Do you think that influenced your response to the Sad Kids?
GB:  I think it really just comes from me not liking people complaining about their first-world problems. Music is an escape for me, and I have no problem listening to a song about a negative life experience. In fact, I rather enjoy relating to whatever the writer was thinking at the time. But there has to be enough gravitas to justify the emotion.
SD:  You are drawing from a lot of different genres for your sound, from R&B to country novelty songs.
GB:  It’s all over the board. If there is one thing I’m guilty of, it’s not being able to slip my sound neatly into a marketing genre. I just put together whatever comes to mind that day.
SD:  Would you like to tour with a band?
GB:  Yes. I have in the past with other bands, and I love it. The challenge I run into is that Los Angeles is the type of city you can’t leave for very long, or people forget who you are. There are a million other actors trying to do the exact same thing you are. So going out on tour for a month at a time becomes difficult logistically. You obviously can’t audition during that tour. And when your agent calls and you are unable to make it, they begin to become frustrated with you. And rightfully so. Casting directors get frustrated when you turn down opportunities they’re providing. So I came to the conclusion that I can record my music and play it around Los Angeles, but I can’t afford to go on the road.
SD:  Thankfully, there’s the internet, huh?
GB:  No kidding! You can get so much done in the music industry at this point via the web. You can accumulate a pretty decent following, and that allows you to prime your audience for a one-off in any given city. I can schedule a performance and be reasonably sure of an audience who has become interested in the music via the internet.
SD:  You were recently in a film that showed at the Hollywood film festival.
GB:  Yes, we actually shot One Small Hitch a couple of years ago. The producers are in the process of doing what producers do:  looking for distribution. What will become of that movie, I’m not exactly sure. If nothing else, I imagine at some point in the not-too-distant future One Small Hitch will be available on Netflix or some similar vehicle.
SD:  You have a great character name in that one.
GB:  Lance Daluca. I play the cheating, lying boyfriend of the main character and set her up for a love interest she ultimately discovers. Lance wounds her and sends her out into the world to repair the damage.
SD:  So you spend much of your career in the “damage” area.
GB:  I don’t know why that keeps coming up. Maybe I’m missing something – but I keep getting cast in these types of roles.
SD:  Is SPANK! a bus-and-truck show?
GB:  Yes, sometimes we just do one or two shows in a city. We are in Kansas City, Missouri, at the moment; but we have dates in California, Oregon, Washington and Florida before we come to Louisville. It’s crazy. With Million Dollar Quartet, I was doing eight shows a week every week and sometimes more around the holidays.
SD:  How big is the cast of SPANK!?
GB:  It’s a three-person cast. You have me (the billionaire), the virgin and the character of the playwright who serves as the narrator. She creates the characters and puts us through the wringer with various scenarios. At times we break out of the scenario and get into arguments with her about the way she’s writingus. Small cast, small crew – but big show!

SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody will be in The Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theater May 23-25. Tickets for this adults-only show start at $45 and are available by calling the box office at 502.584.7777 or online at

Monday, April 22, 2013

Center Stage “Gets It Right” with Avenue Q

Katie Nuss, Tymika Prince and Jordan Price in Avenue Q.
Photo - CenterStage.

Avenue Q

Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Book by Jeff Whitty
Based on an Original Concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx
Directed by John R. Leffert

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

Avenue Q is a show near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen it performed dozens of times, whether it was the original Broadway production, the touring version, or other productions by Louisville theater groups. And each time I see it I am reminded that even though the images that stay with you are puppets using profanity, appearing nude, and having sex on stage, the core of the show is its message about tolerance and transitioning into adulthood. As funny as it gets, there are moments of real poignancy and heart that tend to get lost in the spectacle.

CenterStage at the Jewish Community Center’s current production really seems to get it, and for the most part, they get it right. From John Leffert’s realistic (if not entirely functional) set design, to his direction, to Zachary Boone’s fun choreography, and to mostly strong performances by the cast, the show is pure entertainment from start to finish. 

Basically it’s the what-if story of what might have become of the beloved characters on Sesame Street once they’ve grown up. It’s a mix of actors performing with and without puppets in a series of vignettes teaching lessons you’d never learn from the Children’s Television Workshop, whether it’s using the internet to watch porn, staying in denial about your sexuality, or freaking out after a one-night stand.

Our main protagonist is a fresh-out-of-college puppet named Princeton (Jordan Price), moving into the apartment complex community of Avenue Q and searching for his purpose. The superintendent is none other than down-on-his-luck former child star Gary Coleman (Tymika Prince), who quickly introduces Princeton to the other tenants of the run-down complex: Ernie and Bert surrogates Nicky (Brian Morris) and Rod (Price again), roommates in denial of the sexual preferences of one of them; Kate Monster (Katie Nuss), a cute furry love-interest for Princeton; Brian (Jason Cooper) and Christmas Eve (Jennifer Poliskie), a wannabe comedian and his Japanese therapist wife; and Trekkie Monster (Morris again), a shut-in addicted to internet porn.

Other characters come and go, and the plot takes a lot of dramatic leaps with the emotional ups and downs young twenty-somethings must deal with (it owes as much to Rent as it does to the Muppets), and moves along at a brisk pace that never fails to entertain.

Much kudos go to Brian Morris, giving easily the best performance in the show as Nicky and Trekkie Monster. His vocal range for both characters really brings to mind not only the original Broadway performer of the characters, but the voice of Jim Henson as well. Tymika Prince also fares very well in emulating the late Gary Coleman, and has two of the best musical numbers in the show.

Jordan Price is convincingly sweet as Princeton, but he really excels as the closeted Republican banker puppet Rod. When he has a complete breakdown late in the show, you just can’t help but be moved by his character’s arc, puppet or not. Katie Nuss’s character voice as Kate Monster is a bit hard to take – it is way too high-pitched; she fares a lot better in her second character Lucy the Slut, Kate’s rival for Princeton’s affections. Her comic timing and vocals really work to sell that second character. And finally, Kristy Calman gets some nice moments with some of the secondary puppet characters; giving the nasty old busybody Mrs. Thistletwat a lilting brogue was a nice character choice.

I did notice a number of the show’s bigger moments had been cut from this production, which was odd since I’ve seen productions with much lower budgets produce the show without cutting a thing. But over all it was a great show and has a lot to recommend.

Honestly, I can’t imagine how you could do a bad production of such an iconic and hilarious show. This one is definitely worth a look!

Starring David Beach, Kristy Calman, Jason Cooper, Brian Morris, Katie Nuss, Jennifer Poliskie, Jordan Price, and Tymika Prince.

Avenue Q

April 11 –28, 2013

Center Stage at the
Jewish Community Center
3600 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, Kentucky 40205
(502) 459-0660

Saturday, April 20, 2013

El Delirio Producciones Brings Spanish Language Theatre To Louisville: A Bilingual Review of Soy una Mujer

Haydee Canovas in Soy una Mujer at The Bard's Town.
Photo – El Delirio Producciones.

Soy una Mujer: Tres Monólogos

Reseña Por Carlos-Manuel
Bilingual review by Carlos Manuel

Derechos Reservados © 2013 Carlos Manuel
Entire contents copyright © 2013 Carlos Manuel. All rights reserved

As El Delirio Producciones is a Spanish language theatre company, this review appears both in Spanish and English. Scroll down to read the English translation.

Soy una mujer: Tres monólogos es una obra compuesta de tres relatos distintos acerca de las situaciones emocionales, sexuales, y sicológicas de tres mujeres de diferentes edades y en tres diferentes situaciones sociales.

Presentada por El Delirio Producciones bajo la dirección artística de Francisco Juárez, esta obra se compone de dos textos del dramaturgo mexicano Emilio Carballido y uno del escritor italiano Dario Fo. Angélica Muñoz en “Selaginela” y Hayde Canovas en “Parásitas” se encargan de representar los papeles de escritor mexicano, mientras que Angie Williams tiene la oportunidad de representar a “La Reina de la casa,” personaje creado por escritor italiano.

Con una escenografía simple pero elegante y debidamente adecuada, además con una decoración muy pero muy apropiada,  la obra comienza con un prólogo ingeniosamente calculado por el director. El prólogo no solo nos da la oportunidad de ver a las tres mujeres en el escenario al mismo tiempo (algo que no se verá después) si no que nos presenta el estilo y los matices que poco a poco se irán descubriendo durante el transcurso de la obra.

Como Ofelia, la actriz Angélica Muñoz nos presenta a una chica de preparatoria la cual, debido a sus calificaciones, ha sido encerrada en su propia habitación hasta que “estudie lo suficiente para que pueda mejorar sus notas escolares.”  Sin embargo, Ofelia es una joven llena de energía, de fantasías, y sexualidad, lo que hace que en lugar de estudiar se dedique a pasar el tiempo tratando de convencer a su mamá que la deje salir ya que sus amigos la esperan para ir al cine, entre ellos un chico apodado “Pinocho,” del cual Ofelia se siente sumamente interesado.

En el papel de Dulce, la actriz Haydee Canovas nos lleva a conocer a una mujer la cual llega a casa lista para preparar la comida y para quejarse de todo lo que tiene que hacer por su marido el cual ha muerto recientemente. Dulce es una artista—pintora—pero ha abandonado “su arte” para poder apoyar “el arte” de su marido, el cual era artesano y manejaba la hojalatería creando cuadros, marcos y espejos adornados con esculturas hechas de hojalata.

El último personaje en aparecer en escena es María. Ella llega a nosotros por medio de  la actriz Angie Williams. María, como Ofelia, se encuentra encerrada bajo llave pero por su marido, el cual es celoso y aún peor, la golpea constantemente. A simple vista, María parece ser una “ama de casa” sin embargo, entre más escuchamos de ella, mas nos damos cuenta que bajo la “alegría” de esta mujer se encuentras encerrados los más interesantes secretos.

Soy una mujer: Tres monólogos es una obra que no solo divierte pero al mismo tiempo educa ya que las situaciones en que se encuentran los tres personajes nos muestra las diversas maneras del abuso doméstico.

Ofelia se encuentra encerrada bajo llave en su habitación y no tiene otro remedio más que vivir sus propias fantasías juveniles frente a nosotros. Es aquí donde descubrimos como “el mantenerse en forma al igual que bello” es sumamente importante para ser aceptado en la sociedad. Es aquí donde vemos como, sino encajas dentro de lo esperado, tus compañeros de clase te harán burla y te acosarán (bullied) constantemente. Y es aquí donde reconocemos la dificultad de ser adolecente y sentirte atraído hacia alguien el cual odias y amas al mismo tiempo y por el cual harías cualquier cosa.

Dulce, por su parte, y por deseo propio, se encierra en su propio mundo y su propia agonía. Su esposo ha muerto y ahora ella tiene la oportunidad de comenzar una nueva vida, sin embargo, decide pretender que todo sigue como antes y su marido aun está con ella. Esta decisión hace que Dulce se la pase quejándose de todo lo que tiene que hacer por su marido, de todo lo que tuvo que hacer por él y de todo lo que tendrá que hacer por él a pesar de que ya ha muerto. Durante este monólogo nos encontramos con aquella gente que después de haber sacrificado por otra persona, ahora que tiene la oportunidad de comenzar una nueva vida, no lo hacen pues se han vuelto tan dependientes de aquel ser amado que no saben ni cómo empezar nuevamente.

Por lo contrario, María, la cual vive encerrada en contra de su voluntad, sabe exactamente donde se encuentra y cuál es su situación. Pero, como muchas mujeres, no se atreve a aceptar su realidad. Para poder evadir y pensar en su situación, a María le encanta cantar y escuchar música, lo cual lo hace en la sala por medio de un radio, en el comedor por medio de un toca discos, y en la cocina por medio de una grabadora, pero nunca en la habitación pues allí es donde se encuentra la televisión. Pronto descubrimos que para María, a pesar de sus candentes fantasías y sus aventuras sexuales, la música llega a ser su única compañera y su cantar su único consuelo. Afortunadamente, gracias al consejo de una vecina, María por fin “despierta” y toma una decisión sumamente positiva.

Si hay algo que aprender de esta obra es el hecho de que las mujeres han sido sujetas a condiciones deplorables todo el tiempo. Han sufrido, han vivido en la angustia, y hasta han soportado la mano fuerte de sus seres queridos. Pero, gracias a la gran dirección del Francisco Juárez, y al tan buen trabajo de las tres actrices Soy una mujer: Tres monólogos nos muestra que la mujer no tiene que vivir el cotidiano melodrama que se presenta en las tan superficiales telenovelas mexicanas y colombianas donde la mujer sufre, llora, y se aguanta mientras que el hombre triunfa.  Al contrario, la mujer puede y debe ser un ser libre con la suficiente fuerza para tomar sus propias decisiones y salir de cualquier situación donde se le vea como “una mujer” y no como un ser humano, con derechos e igualdades civiles. Nunca es tarde, no es imposible y siempre hay una esperanza. Como lo dice Lupita D’alessio, “Porque soy mujer.”

In English:

Soy una mujer: Tres monólogos is a play composed of three different stories about the emotional, sexual and psychological states of three women of different ages and in three different situations.

Produced by El Delirio Producciones, under the direction of Francisco Juárez, this play contains two texts from the Mexican playwright Emilio Carballido and one by an Italian playwright, Dario Fo. Angélica Muñoz in “Selaginela” and Haydee Canovas in “Parasites” are in charge of representing the characters created by the Mexican writer, while Angie Willimas has the opportunity to represent “The Queen of the House,” the character created by the Italian playwright.

With a simple but elegant and very appropriate set, the play starts with an ingenious prologue created by the director. In this prologue we not only have the opportunity to see the three women on stage (something that won’t happen for the rest of the play) but we also have the opportunity to see what connects these three women while the mood and the style of the play are set.

As Ofelia, actress Angélica Muñoz introduces us to a high school student who has been grounded due to her low grades. She is now locked in her room so she can “take the time to study and better her grades.” But Ofelia is a young woman, full of energy, fantasies, and sexual tension, which prompts her to spend her time arguing with her mother to let her out because her school friends are waiting for her at the movie theatre, among them, Pinocho, a guy Ofelia likes.

Playing Dulce, Haydee Canovas plays a woman who arrives home to cook and to complain about everything she has to do for her husband, who has recently died. Dulce is an artist – a painter – but has abandoned “her art” to support the art of her husband, who used to work adorning mirrors, making sheet metal frames and recreating different type of metal sheet backgrounds.   

The last character who appears on stage is Maria, played by Angie Williams. Like Ofelia, Maria is also under lock and key but by her husband, who is a jealous man and, worse, regularly beats her. At first sight, Maria seems a simple and happy housewife; but under all the happiness, we soon find a woman filled with interesting and outrageous secrets.

Soy una mujer: Three Monologues is a play that not only entertains but also teaches a lesson due to the fact that characters’ situations show us different ways of responding to domestic violence.

Ofelia is under lock and key and has no other option but to live her own personal fantasies in front of us. It is here where we learn that “trying to keep ourselves beautiful” is important in order to be “accepted” in society. It is here where we see how, if you don’t fit in, your school friends will ostracize you and will bully you at all times. And it is in this monologue where we realize how difficult it is to be an adolescent, feel something for someone whom we hate and love at the same time, and for whom we would do anything without thinking. 

On the other hand, Dulce locks herself in, along with her agony. Her husband has died and now she has the opportunity to start a new life. However, she decides to pretend everything is like it was before her husband died. This decision forces Dulce to complain about everything she’s always done for her husband, and everything she will continue doing for her husband even though he’s dead. It is in this piece where we recognize people who, after sacrificing everything for somebody else, can’t take advantage of the opportunity to start anew because they have become so codependent on the other person that they don’t know how – and so they give up. 

Unlike Dulce, Maria, who is imprisoned against her will, knows exactly where she is and what situation she’s in. But, like many women in real life, she doesn’t dare to accept her reality. To avoid even thinking about it, Maria loves to sing and to listen to music, which she does in the living room using a radio, in the dining room using a record player, and in the kitchen using a tape player, but never in the bedroom because that’s where the TV is located. Soon we learned that for Maria, despite her exuberant fantasies and sexual escapades, music becomes her only companion and singing her only comfort. Fortunately, thanks to her neighbor’s advice, Maria finally “wakes up” and makes an incredibly positive decision.

The important thing to learn from this production is the fact that women always seem to find themselves under deplorable conditions. They have suffered, they sometimes live in agony, and they have put up with physical abuse coming from those who love them. But thanks to Franciso Juárez’s incredible direction, and the good acting of the three actresses, Soy una mujer: Three Monologues shows us a woman who doesn’t have to live the everyday melodrama presented on those superficial Mexican and Colombian soap operas where women suffer, cry, put up with everything while men triumph. Instead, women can and should be free, with enough strength to make their own decisions and get out of any bad situation where they are seen as “just a woman” and not a human being with rights and equality. It’s never too late; it’s not impossible; and there is always hope. As Lupita D’alessio, a Mexican artists, sings, “Because I’m a Woman.” 

Soy una Mujer: Three Monologues

April 18-20, 25-27, 2013 @7:30pm

El Delirio Producciones at
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Witty Yet Brave Cocktail Addresses Themes of Aging and Mortality

Another Cocktail, Dear?

Written by Sallie Manassah
Directed by Juergen Tossmann

Reviewed by Cristina Martin

Entire contents copyright © 2013 Cristina Martin. All rights reserved.

Just what makes life worth living? And who’s to decide when it isn’t, anymore?

New playwright Sallie Manassah addresses these difficult questions with bravery and wit in Another Cocktail Dear?, currently in production by Bunbury Theatre Company at the Henry Clay. A story of five female friends facing their twilight years, the play is well worth seeing whatever your age or gender. The talented cast keeps the laughs coming, all the while challenging the audience to face the realities of aging that are more or less imminent for us all. In her program notes, Manassah expresses the hope that the show will “…make people think.” Indeed it does.

Annie (Ann Marie Alexander), Marilyn (Carol Tyree Williams), Sandy (Alice Chiles), Diane (Ann Meyer) and Janet (Tiffany Smith) meet for two hours on the second Tuesday of each month at 3 p.m. to talk, play cards and enjoy cocktails together. As the play opens, we meet them one by one in the present day -- all similar in broad outline (60-ish, female, white, heterosexual, upper-middle class), but each with her own particularities which make for a colorful ensemble. Annie, recently back from Cape Cod and a visit with the grandchildren, hosts everyone in a common room of her housing complex. High-powered realtor Marilyn bustles in, talking about her job and how she enjoys risk; outdoors-woman Sandy shares stories of her hiking adventures; Diane, newly back from Paris, regales everyone with stories of the outfits she has created in the style of her favorite designer, Chanel; and artsy Janet shows up late, as usual, explaining that she has just come from the ordeal of changing her granddaughter’s diaper.

Janet is grieving the recent loss of her 94-year-old mother, who, after having been in fairly good shape for her age for quite some time, one day “fell in the kitchen and was gone.” Conversation turns to the experience of getting older, with some good quips as the ladies express their reaction to what they see when they look in the mirror lately. Marilyn says she never imagined that as she got older she was going to have to pay for sex, between what she spends for her husband’s Viagra and her own hormone replacement therapy! They comment that they’re the first generation of women to “have it all,” but they’re also the “Club Sandwich Generation,” looking after aging parents while also helping their children look after their own children. As they bond and vent, it’s clear that these friendships go way back and are responsible for sustaining these women through it all.

Imagining what’s in store in years to come, the friends are sobered (despite the freely flowing cocktails) by the thought of memory loss, loss of sense of self, and loss of one another. They make a plan to live together once they can no longer live unassisted. And because “friends don’t let friends suffer the long goodbye,” they devise a daring and controversial solution to the most troubling of end-of-life issues.

Bob Bush has designed a clean, serviceable set in neutral tones that gives the actors a variety of options for groupings and movement. The women gather around a round table to play cards, but good use is made of a bar upstage and of two other seats stage-left as well. One puzzling element is Marilyn’s insistence, several times in Act 1, upon everyone at the card party getting up and switching seats. Was this written into the script, and do people actually do this? It’s one way of providing some visual variety, but it seems a little forced. Other elements of stage business, however, such as Janet’s watching her friends from behind the bar or off to the side, and Marilyn’s pulling up a chair to sit near and help her at poker when Janet is at the table, are subtle and artful. Rather than putting the actors on a platform or using a carpet, this production cleverly delineates the space where the action is to take place by painting a rectangular area of the stage floor a pale sage color.

All five characters are excellently cast and skillfully played. Tiffany Smith deserves particular kudos as the youngest actor of the group, who transforms herself so thoroughly via her voice and movement that I would have sworn she was at least 30 years older than she actually is. Just a little more makeup on her hands and upper arms (the hands always give you away!!) would make the illusion complete. The play’s pacing is generally very good. Only on the rarest of occasions does the dialogue hint at losing momentum, and no sooner does the impression form than it’s swept away by an energetically delivered line.

Between Acts 1 and 2, the five friends age 30 years, and the transformations are extraordinary. Director Juergen Tossmann has worked meticulously with each actor with regard to posture, movement and gesture to make them completely believable as 90+ year olds – specifically, as 90+ -year-old versions of the 60+ -year-olds we met in the first act. Annie tells us in Act 1 that “finding your sense of style and sticking with it is the essence of aging well.” Ingeniously, Thomas Leigh’s costumes for each woman in Act 2 echo their respective outfits in Act 1 via subtle preferences for print, color, cut or accessories. A more open set in Act 2 allows the actors to maneuver around via walkers and wheelchairs. Along with what seemed to be cooler lighting chosen by Lighting Designer Steve Woodring in the second act as opposed to the first, the greater openness creates a sense that life grows emptier and more sparsely populated with friends as we advance in age.

Two additional characters, a nurse (Kim Guenthner) and a detective (Mike Burmester), join the original characters at the assisted living facility where they all end up in Act 2. Both actors deliver sound performances in their supporting roles.

My only source of dismay with regard to Another Cocktail, Dear? was the printed program, otherwise very professional looking but containing more misspellings and typographical errors than it really should. To begin with, is there a comma in the play’s title or not? It seems to call for one, but it appears variously. Nitpicking aside, I was rather surprised by the note appearing at the bottom of the page that lists contributors to Bunbury Theatre Company: “We apologize if your name is missing from this list, or misspelled. Please let us know and we will make the appropriate correction.” Shouldn’t the spelling (especially of people’s names… especially of the names of CONTRIBUTORS) have been checked and double-checked before the program went to press?? Unfortunately, Chris Driesbach’s (sp?) name appears one way in this list but is spelled differently on the following page. Poor Kim Guenthner is U-E in one spot but E-U in another (a plight with which I imagine Producing Artistic Director Juergen Tossmann might sympathize). Carol Tyree Williams “…has performed in the Louisville, Indiana area for over 30 years” according to her bio, as well as with Music Theatre LouisVILLE (horrors!), and Ainsley Peace (Lights, Sound) is apparently not on the same page as anyone else either literally or figuratively, as her bio informs us that she “…is happy to be back at Bunbury for LOVE LETTERS.” Poor Costume Designer Thomas Leigh doesn’t even get a bio. I truly don’t mean to be snide. It’s just that a little closer attention to detail would go a long way toward creating the polished image that any theatre would prefer and that all those associated with Bunbury deserve.

In general, however, this show is another fine production by a fine Louisville theatre company. Sallie Manassah says that she wrote the play reluctantly, never before having tried her hand at writing for the stage. But I do hope she is encouraged by her success to perhaps write more. Cheers to her and to all involved in bringing Another Cocktail, Dear? to fruition.

Another Cocktail, Dear?

April 12-28, 2013

Bunbury Theatre Company
at The Henry Clay Theatre
604 S. Third St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 585-5306

"Breaking Ground" Brings Louisville Ballet’s Season to an End

Kristopher Wojtera and Evgeni Dokoukine in Breaking Ground.
Photo – Louisville Ballet.

Breaking Ground

Various choreographers

Review by Kathi E. B. Ellis.

Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Kathi E. B. Ellis. All rights reserved.

This weekend’s performances mark the end of the 2012-2013 season. Although there was no great Gala to culminate this year’s season, the program included a premiere and a homegrown piece on the main stage for the first time, both significant markers in any season.

An unexpected gem of the program was the two-minute Spring Waters of Asaf Messerer. On Saturday afternoon, Amanda Diehl and Mark Krieger danced this. Ms. Diehl and Mr. Krieger were electric in this dazzling example of bravura classical choreography, with a vibrant kinetic chemistry between them. Rachmaninoff’s music surges with energy and joy, generating a sense that the dancers are lifted up through the music – into breathtaking lifts and apparently effortless leaps. Messerer (1903-1992) provides today’s dancers an almost direct link to the grand tradition of 19th century ballet, through those who taught him and to those he taught during his long career spanning much of the 20th century. Spring Waters, in spite of its brevity, is a tangible connection between the Petipa works in this program and the two new works.

Principal choreographer Adam Hougland unveiled his newest work for the company, Ten Beautiful Objects, created for ten male dancers to music of Mark Richter. Ten Beautiful Objects is a starkly compelling work showcasing the ever-growing depth of talent in the male corps of the Louisville Ballet; the casting varied slightly at different performances, affording the opportunity for fourteen dancers to participate in this premiere. The designs of Sandra Woodall, costumes, and Michael T. Ford, lighting, strongly support Mr. Hougland’s world, with Mr. Ford’s lighting being the most dynamic and evocative I’ve seen him design. Hougland’s choreography suggests an exploration of both the sculpted fluidity of the human form and the anonymous and automatonic aspects of a contemporary urban world. Ostensibly abstract, there is a brief thread of narrative in the middle that stilled Saturday afternoon’s audience with its momentary explosion of unexpected violence and exclusion. The ten dancers created a powerful ensemble as Hougland’s choreography expertly interweaves ever-changing combinations of dancers, creating dynamic partnering and lifts for this all-male ensemble.

Company member Brandon Ragland’s now-titled Silent Conversations was originally seen as Stalemate in the 2011 Choreographers' Showcase at the Louisville Ballet studio, set to music of Yann Tiersen and Philip Glass. Mr. Ragland has suggested that he was initially intimidated by recasting this piece in the expanse of the Whitney Hall. However, this piece translates elegantly into a larger stage, allowing his choreography to breathe and extend fully. Silent Conversations appears more dynamic than Stalemate. In part, this is owing to the full production values (costumes by Dan Fedie and lighting by Michael T. Ford) of a main stage ballet. In part, I infer, it is the change of title:  the original is static; the current one invites a commitment to engage and relate, which Saturday afternoon’s dancers did.

The classic component of the program was Marius Petipa’s choreography. The pas de deux from Le Corsaire followed Mr. Ragland’s piece and the program began with Paquita. Natalia Ashikhimina and Evgeni Dokoukine were delightful in this showcase piece. Mr. Dokoukine brought appropriate verve to his solo and precision to the iconic gesture of the corsaire. Ms. Ashikhimina delighted the audience with her assured fouettés. Paquita has become a traditional staple of mixed programs, and it is good to see the female corps embracing the clarity and precision of this choreography. On Saturday afternoon, all the dancers seemed more attuned to the allegro sections; in part this may have been the sound quality. (In the opening variation the balance between the speakers seemed out of balance.) Another disadvantage to taped music is when the size of the music and the size of the dancing is out of sync – something that a conductor could modify in the moment. There were moments when the world of Erica de la O and Kristopher Wojtera, Paquita and Lucien, and the world of the music were of a different scale. Nonetheless, these two elegant dancers are in their element in this work and are well matched as dance partners. Ms. de la O always brings poise and precision to her characters, and Mr. Wojtera’s style is particularly suited to the grandeur of classical ballet (although I would love to see him in Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, a dream role to which he aspires as he told Arts-Louisville recently). The three soloists on Saturday afternoon were Emily Reinking O’Dell, Anne Albrechta and Christy Corbett Miller.

Artistic Director Bruce Simpson’s juxtaposition of Paquita and Ten Beautiful Objects succinctly encapsulates the journey from the ballerina-centric world of Russian ballet to a contemporary landscape in which an ensemble of male dancers can sustain a ballet.  Breaking Ground, new and old, showcased the strengths of both the men and women of the company – a great prelude to next season in which Louisville audiences will see one of Petipa’s most loved ballets, Swan Lake (most recently seen in 2010); Bournonville’s La Sylphide (the first full production in ten years, though Act Two was seen in this season’s Studio Connections program); the annual Nutcracker; and, once again, closing out the season with a program of shorts, featuring contemporary choreographers Ma Cong, Adam Hougland (restaging his Fragile Stasis) and a world premiere by Val Caniparoli. In some ways, today’s program is a microcosm of the 2013-2014 season.

Breaking Ground

Friday, April 12-13

Louisville Ballet
Whitney Hall at The Kentucky Center.
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY, 40202
(502) 584-7777