Orange County Theatre Reviews

Review, Theater, Theatre Out, Uncategorized Comments Off on Waiting for Godot @ Theatre Out by Alchemy Theatre Company in Santa Ana – Review |

Waiting for Godot @ Theatre Out by Alchemy Theatre Company in Santa Ana – Review

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Photo credit to Amy Lauren Gettys

Written by Daniella Litvak 

I’m sure there are libraries worth of literary criticism devoted to figuring out what Waiting For Godot is about. Instead of me trying to add to that library, I’ll take the Director Note’s advice to heart and let each person come up with their own interpretation while moving on to discussing Alchemy’s Theatre Company’s rendition of the play.

Waiting for Godot is exactly what it sounds like. The play consists of two men, Vladimir and Estragon waiting for a mysterious gentleman named Godot, who never shows up. What follows are many different misadventures along the way.  

The costuming is deceptively simple. All of the characters more or less wear suits. However, costume designer (and director) Jesse Runde has a great eye for detail. Wrinkled and torn trousers, worn out boots (for those wearing them), too short jacket sleeves, and loosened ties immediately convey the characters are down on their luck. Likewise, the one character wearing an immaculately pressed suit shows he’s well off without needing exposition and heightens the class disparity among the cast. Also the makeup for Lucky –ghastly pale complexion and sunken eyes – makes him appear corpse like and cements his position as the most miserable wretch in the world.

The setting is minimal –two rocks and a tree –which I’m guessing was Beckett’s intent. One of the rocks and the tree look kind of like they were constructed from something that was the lovechild of Legos and Jenga blocks, which gives them a nice three-dimensional effect. The tree and rocks do their job of providing something the actors can comment about, cower behind, or sit on. Visually, there’s a nice cartoon-like gag of two of the actors trying to hide behind a tree nowhere large enough to provide cover.

What’s more impressive is the effectiveness of the staging. The actors make great use of every inch of the small stage. They’re literally bouncing off the walls and dangerously close to falling into the audience. I like how so much about Godot is unknown even his messenger –a young, innocent child –is shrouded in mystery.

The acting is very strong –although, warning, accents are used. I love all their facial expressions, not just the comedic ones. The expressions of despair from Jonathan Pier Durante and Jeff Lowe are heartbreaking.

In the technical areas, the show delivers. My biggest problem with the show is the first act, which is wry, morose and detached. Despite the actors’ energy, something about it felt leaden. I could not engage with it on an emotional level. The second act does a lot to remedy the issue. There’s more of a dialogue among the characters, which makes them more interesting as opposed to the lecturing dominating the first act. It’s funnier. At the same time, the increasing anxiety and hopelessness in their mission gives the actors much more to work with as well make me more sympathetic to their plight.

I think if you like Waiting for Godot, you’ll like the Alchemy Theatre Company’s rendition of it.

  6/10

March 20-28

http://www.alchemytheatre.com/

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Costa Mesa, Review, South Coast Repertory, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on Koji Dreams Of A Deeper Story : Tokyo Fish Story @ South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa – Review |

Koji Dreams Of A Deeper Story : Tokyo Fish Story @ South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa – Review

Ryun Yu, Sab Shimono and Jully Lee in South Coast Repertory's 20

Ryun Yu, Sab Shimono and Jully Lee in South Coast Repertory’s Photo Courtesy : South Coast Rep

Written by Daniella Litvak 

Besides the usual, useful information about cast, crew, and upcoming shows, the program for Tokyo Fish Story includes “A Gajin’s Guide to Sushi,” a one page history/glossary giving you the low down on sushi. Besides making your mouth water, it’s a nice overview of the terminology used throughout the show. I don’t think you’ll get lost if you don’t know what “tamagoyaki” or “noren” means, but I do think knowing what’s being talked adds a little more spice to the experience. I recommend taking a look at it while your anxiously waiting for the curtain.

Now that the prep work is out of the way, lets move on to the main course. Tokyo Fish Story is about… It’ s kind of hard to describe the plot because the play wants to be about a lot of different things. It wants to be story about a great restaurant in decline because customers are choosing gimmicks over quality. It wants to be story about a protégée learning to stand up to his mentor. It wants to be about a man coming to terms with past mistakes served with a side of commentary regarding gender inequality in restaurant kitchens.   And so on.

All of these ideas have potential. Maybe it could have all come together if the play had a longer run time. (It’s 90 minutes and without an intermission). As it stands, this mishmash of ingredients can come across as undercooked. For instance, a businessman tries to tempt Nobu, an apprentice chef, into working for the competition. However, the way the scene is written, although very funny, the offer never tempts Nobu. It’s never brought up afterwards or has any consequences –really undermining the dramatic stakes.

The funny thing is, I didn’t realize any of this until after the show was over. I liked spending 90 minutes (and would be willing to spend more) with these characters. Playwright Kimber Lee has a knack for comedy and dialogue. The acting is fantastic. Each actor brings nuance and vulnerability to their role(s). It’s just a joy to watch them talk about sushi, Star Wars, or hip-hop as they go about their day. There’s quite a bit of pantomiming forced upon them, but they never look ridiculous.

The space is utilized effectively, and the staging is well done. The scene transitions are flawless, and the sound effects and music really add to the atmosphere. I recommend seeing Tokyo Fish Story. Now I’m off to look at a sushi menu.

8/10

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March 8-28, 2015

Similar drama : check out Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

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fullerton, Review, Stagestheatre, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on Dead Man’s Cell Phone @ STAGEStheatre in Fullerton – Review |

Dead Man’s Cell Phone @ STAGEStheatre in Fullerton – Review

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Photo Courtesy : STAGEStheatre

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

I recently saw a high school production of “Les Miserables” as a viewer.  Brian Johnson did a beautiful job directing a large number of teenagers in a very well-known show, so I was eager to see his work with adult performers in Stages’ Theatre’s new play Dead Man’s Cell Phone.  Unfortunately, the limited movement coupled with depthless writing makes for a somewhat disappointing play. 

On the surface Dead Man’s Cell Phone sounds like a great idea, maybe even brilliant.  While dining in a cafe on a rainy day, a woman named Jean notices a man named Gordon sitting at another table and ignoring his ringing cell phone.  Upon further investigation, Jean finds out Gordon is not ignoring his phone. He’s dead.  Being the sole person “with him when he died,” she attends his funeral and meets those closest to him. In an attempt to comfort the colorful characters he left behind, she makes some slight exaggerations in regards to his last moments on earth and continues to answer his cell phone in an effort to keep some part of his spirit alive.  These actions lead her on a spiritual journey, which causes her to question what she believes about communication, the afterlife, and the very nature of love.  While rich in concept, the story is lacking in its execution. 

I can think of several instances where the energy levels could stand to be increased.  Jean has to deal with multiple extreme moments that have the potential to be funny, are clearly written to be funny, but just aren’t funny enough because she is taking these crazed situations so darn well.   Her character is not the type to remain calm in all instances, so the humor is clearly not intended to stem from her casual state of being.  She just isn’t excited enough about the lunacy taking over her life. To the actress’s credit, her soft and sweet demeanor is believable, but it is so believable any conviction Jean shows seems out of place when it suddenly pops up.  

There is not much physically happening in this show.  It is mostly rooted in the dialogue.  This is not entirely a bad thing because many of the jokes are actually really funny.  It’s when the show tries to get too deep we start having problems.  Heaven help us when it starts trying to be deep and funny at the same time.  There is just so much rambling and theorizing. It’s clear the intention is to make the audience think, but in the long run it just seems annoying.  There is talk about cell phones, communications with the dead, and an effort to portray the afterlife.  There is an elaborate dance scene featuring umbrellas which symbolizes…something I’m sure.  The meandering plot and callous treatment of certain issues makes the story less enjoyable. 

Something working in show’s favor is the sets.  The background is so beautiful and works so well, I am surprised people don’t utilize these backdrops more often.  

 7/10

March 13th – April 19th

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Interview with the director of Dead Man’s Cell Phone 

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