Orange County Theatre Reviews

Merrily We Roll Along @ Cal State University Long Beach – Review

Merrily-review

photo courtesy : Keith Ian Polakoff Joseph Ruggiero as Frank and Emily Turner as Gussie

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Cal State Long Beach’s production of Merrily We Roll Along boasts some great performances that are ultimately overshadowed by serious blocking issues, that make the performance a little less “Merry” and a lot more disappointing.  

 

Merrily We Roll Along follows the twisting tale of wealthy and influential songwriter and film producer, Franklin Shepard.  The show opens with a party being thrown in Shepard’s honor, only to reveal to the audience that despite his popularity and financial success, the most valued relationships in his life are now in shambles.  The show begins to go backwards in time to reveal episodes from his past that might answer the question of where it all went wrong. At its most basic level, its the story of success not being the end all be all in life.  

 

Working backwards scene by scene, I was reminded a little of movies like Citizen Kane that follow a similar storyline.   And while the question of “where did it all go wrong?” is never definitively  answered, the everyday occurrences of life might be enough to hold our attention if not for one simple thing–the blocking.

 

The staging was distracting beyond belief.   It would appear that someone for some reason thought that large, strange set pieces/walls with holes and little windows would serves as artistic, creative, and avant garde.  While the pieces certainly resembled many other art pieces/paintings that can be seen any number of times in a modern day art exhibit, they do little to enhance the enjoyability of the show.  This is due to the fact that the stage is set in the middle of the audience and the set pieces block at least half of the performance at any given time.   While the pieces were utilized as both “boards”  to write the year on and props (such as doors) I would rather see the performers over the backs of boards any day.  

The strongest performances came from the actors playing Mary(Colleen McCandless) and Charley (Daniel Nakawatase), the blocking and dancing from the rest of the performers was somewhat stilted.  

 
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Garage Theatre, Long Beach, Review, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on History with a dash of Burton – Pink Milk @ Garage Theatre in Long Beach – Review |

History with a dash of Burton – Pink Milk @ Garage Theatre in Long Beach – Review

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Pink Milk is a mixed up bag of actors, diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity. While some characters’s personalities shine through others are grimacing weak. It’s a strange and rewarding combination of surreal and historical concepts, pretty high level material if the whole thing didn’t resemble an ambitious high-school play.

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Craig Johnson and Blair Allison

 

The story is that of Alan Turing, a British scientist who is credited by some as making the single “largest contribution” to defeating Nazi Germany and was chemically castrated for the crime of  homosexuality.   In Pink Milk we watch Turing grow from a tender and misunderstood child to a tender misunderstood adult, who is eventually forced to use his talents for a harsh society that ultimately destroys him.

 

The theater itself is small (understatement), it’s a four sided stage surrounded by the audience.  This leaves the viewer with a less-than-easy feeling as everyone settles in.  It takes awhile for this feeling to dissipate, but it does.  Although it isn’t a musical there is some dancing that manages to impress.  In such a small space the fact that they are able to pull us into this strange little Alan Turing world is surprising, but the movement and blocking is intriguing enough to prompt the viewer to focus on the slightest of motions.  They also succeed in showcasing the emotion and overall feel of all of the scenes.  For this I give Pink Milk a pat on the back.

 

Although Alan Turing lived during WWII Pink Milk has a distinctly sci-fi feel.  Things like dangling metallic jewelry as well as Turing’s very inventions give the viewer a sense that this is in perhaps the not-so-distant future.  One of the best examples would be Turing’s contribution of breaking code. In the play it’s simplified and magnified through the use of humanoid robots (all played by the same actor) that inexplicably helps win the war. Though its based on a real person this play is not overly concerned with portraying real life but it’s more focused on giving us a basic sense of what Turing’s life might have been like.   With disjointed scenes and such a heavy emphasis on his need to be aggressive for the sake of the war, I can only assume that Alan Turing’s life was that Hot Topic themed Wonderland without Tim Burton.  There’s this weird obsession with apples that I suppose is relevant because the real Alan Turing may or may not have eaten a poisoned apple prior to his death, and also allegedly liked Snow White..  Additionally, many of the actors play multiple characters but aren’t that good at convincingly being more than one person, so the acting takes a pretty strong hit there, even though some of them are skilled.  Overall it just isn’t decisive or strong enough.

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Matthew Vincent Julian and Maribella Magana

 

6.8/10

 

Performance Dates & Times
Friday, October 3rd- Saturday, November 1st. Thursdays, Friday & Saturday
Doors open at 7:30p.m. Shows at 8p.m.

Show Location
The Garage Theatre
251 E. 7th Street
Long Beach, CA 90813
Metered street parking is available on 7th street and LB Blvd.
Open street parking is available on Palmer Ct and Locust St, west of LB Blvd.

 

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