Orange County Theatre Reviews

Anaheim, The Chance Theater, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on Present & Future collide : Maple & Vine @ The Chance Theater in Anaheim – Review |

Present & Future collide : Maple & Vine @ The Chance Theater in Anaheim – Review

Maple-009

Actor James McHale plays Roger/Omar

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

Have you ever had a conversation with a schoolmate or a friend that focused on the possibility of living in another time, I definitely have.  This question is thoroughly and enjoyably explored in Jordan Harrison’s Maple and Vine.

The story follows a husband and wife, Ryu and Katha.  Briefly put, the two are unhappy with the current state of their lives.  Work is unpleasant, life is noisy, marital relations are virtually nonexistent, they simply aren’t happy.  So in the pursuit of a happier existence they join an enclosed community of people who live, eat, work, talk, dress, and overall behave as though they are eternally in 1955.  It’s an interesting premise, carried out in a fairly interesting way.  I found myself invested in the story.  I cared about what happened to these people.  And they managed to touch on all of the issues that would occur to most people considering such an excursion–not just the benefits of technological advancements, but what kind of social environment one would be subjected to?  Would a person be forced to give us certain morals?  Political ideologies?  Would one necessarily be “happier” in such a life?  Or are we in fact meant to search for happiness, no matter what time period we are in?

Maple-003

Actress Jennifer Ruckman plays Katha

It is a thought provoking story.  Not just for the resurrection of the “when would you live if you could live anywhere” question that my friends and I discussed at lunch time in middle school, but I think if it makes even one person recommit to the idea that human interaction is beneficial to eternity on a cell phone, I’ll consider it a success.  At the same time, it acknowledges the progress we as a society have made.  I don’t really consider any stone unturned here, and that is one of the reasons it works so well.  There aren’t any real “plot holes” so to speak.  Perhaps questions not wholly resolved by the end, but I don’t think it’s in any way damaged for that.

The acting was decent, with everyone getting their points across fairly well.  There was a time during the first part where Katha speaks in a consistent tone of stressing every word in precisely the same way.  I think we’re supposed to accept this as a character trait exhibiting just how unchanging and depressing her life is, but it just comes across as though they don’t understand the idea of emoting or the possibility of changing inflections for different sentences.  Katha ability to speak like a human being blossoms in Act II and suddenly she is much more tolerable as a character.

Other than my problem with Katha during her modern-day-mode, the acting in the show is reasonably solid and convincing.   My personal favorite was Ryu, simply because I like that character the most, but there are a few other colorful individuals to choose from.  Set design is fine, with good use of color.  Again, the best part of this show is simply the conversation starters that pop up throughout.  It’s thought provoking and entertaining.  I wish I could recommend it to any group but there is some pretty strong language in their that might not go over well if you bring a kid with you. Still, I’m of the opinion that kids would understand the technological and social benefits of such an experiment as undertaken in Maple and Vine.

8/10

Buy tickets here:
http://chancetheater.com/production/maple-vine/

Date & Location :
September 19, 2014 — October 19, 2014

Chance Theater
5522 E. La Palma Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92807

If you liked this article subscribe with your email on the front page. 

Read more

Free, Review, Santa Ana, South Coast Repertory, Theater Comments Off on Looking Over Santa Ana : The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy – Review |

Looking Over Santa Ana : The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy – Review

“Santa Ana Toy Theater” A collaborative work by Adriana Sanchez Alexander, Chilo Te, Zuleica Zepeda

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 
I recently attended  The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy in Santa Ana, which  is a story centering on the community’s response to the death of a young boy playing in the streets of Santa Ana.  With a large cast and crew running around determined to bring the audience different stories and experiences, the show is muddled and lacks decisive strength.

The play is a walk-through show meaning you’re standing the entire time.  The production takes place outside, and it begins when each audience member receives a card with the image of their “tour guide” on it.  Once the prologue concludes, everyone begins to walk through the show.  It doesn’t matter which tour guide you get or what order you see the scenes in because the characters are fairly independent of each other–they are just different people showing varied responses to the same event.  I want to give them their props, this is a pretty neat idea and it’s always cool to see something different.  Unfortunately the execution is just not there.

The sound issues are distracting.  I am all about suspension of disbelief, but it really takes away from the current performance, when I can hear the scenes going on at the other side of the courtyard. Things are spaced pretty far apart as they are.  I suppose if placed inside a building and the audience walks from room to room instead of yard to yard some sort of sound proofing could be placed into effect, but that might make it harder for the audience to travel without smashing into each other.  It might just be one of the hazards of putting on a play in this format.  Not sure what the solution to this particular problem is.

There were puppets.  Several puppets.  Personally, I could do without a few of the puppets.  But they seem to go over well with the children. I tried to keep an eye on them to see how they were enjoying things, and it seems to really be a 50/50 shot as far as how they cope.  Some kids laugh, others sort of pace around in circles during the more tedious parts of the show, despite the actors urging them to come forward and dance at surprising and infrequent intervals.  If you are worried about whether or not your little ones will be scarred for life from such gory material, don’t be.  You know your kid best of course, but the fact of the matter is that the actual death scene is done with a car made from a poster cut out. The subject matter is very dramatic and there are people crying but I didn’t notice any children getting particularly freaked out by anything going on.

DSCN2066p

My main problem with the show is it’s so undecided.  It wants to be both light and dark, both life and death. Moments that should be filled with pain and anguish fall flat because the actor seems to be holding back (possibly because she knows that another scene is taking place fifty feet away)  and moments that should be lighthearted and entertaining are for the most part sporadic and confusing.  There was a vague outline of an overarching theme but for the most part it was pretty nondescript. Since the story is so spread out over many years the ending I felt sort of comes out of nowhere. 

As far as comprehension goes, if you do not speak Spanish/you have relatives that don’t speak English I am sure you’ll be able to understand the gist of what is going on.  It is mostly just a matter of patience.  Do you have the patience to stand through a minute or two of dialogue in a language that you aren’t fluent in?  If so you will be just fine.

All in all, if you want to educate your child on the dangers of playing in the street, take them to this show.  If you want to familiarize yourself a bit with the culture of Santa Ana, or if you want to brush up on your Spanish, or just want to watch a play in a format you might not have seen before, go to this show.  For the purpose of pure entertainment though, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Side note : Certain actors were particularly believable.  I really enjoyed the performances of Selene Peréz who plays Luz, Bryan Alejandro Perez who plays Yound Salvador, and Samuel Matthews who plays one of the Andrés boys.  Well done to all three.

7/10

Location & Dates : City of Santa Ana Civic Center Plaza September 18th,2014-September 28,201 

Admission : Free

Check out the plot synopsis and ticket information here:http://www.scr.org/calendar/view?id=7331

If you liked this article subscribe with your email on the front page.

Read more

Costa Mesa, Review, shakespeare, South Coast Repertory, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on Phenomenal Magic, Good Shakespeare : The Tempest @ South Coast Repertory – Review |

Phenomenal Magic, Good Shakespeare : The Tempest @ South Coast Repertory – Review

tsc_tempest_25

(left to right) Manelich Minniefee& Zachary Eisenstat (Caliban) Tom Nelis (Prospero)

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest at the South Coast Repertory promised me magic and wonder, which it delivered enthusiastically, albeit single-minded.  Meaning,  I wish all of their actors were as skilled as their magicians.

The story focuses on the usurped Duke Prospero’s quest for vengeance after his brother’s Antonio fails to kill him.  Prospero escapes to an island with magical books and supplies were he becomes a sorcerer residing with his daughter Miranda and his spirit slave Ariel, waiting for his moment of revenge. The play begins with Prospero using his magic to create a tempest ship wreaking the the king and many other royals including Antonio onto his island. From there, we watch the interactions between the spirits and the group of visitors.  Continue Reading

Read more

Costa Mesa, Preview, South Coast Repertory, Theater Comments Off on William Shakespeare’s : The Tempest at South Coast Repertory – Preview |

William Shakespeare’s : The Tempest at South Coast Repertory – Preview

Liz Filios, Joel Davel, Matt Spencer and Miche Braden in South C

Liz Filios, Joel Davel, Matt Spencer and Miche Braden : Courtesy: South Coast Repertory

Written by: Alina Mae Wilson 
 

You can’t go wrong with Shakespeare.  I take that back, it is actually mind-blowingly easy to go wrong with Shakespeare.   It is so unpleasant to watch actors in uncomfortable costumes,  uncomfortably performing their lines, making you feel uncomfortable because you don’t know what they are saying and it’s entirely possible, neither do they. The story follows a former Duke named Prospero who uses sorcery to plot vengeance against the people who wronged him.  So far I’m excited, I always wondered what The Count of Monte Cristo (similar revenge story)  would have been like if Emond Dantes had known witchcraft.

 

I’ve  heard some good things about the special effects that will be showcased in the performance, especially from the creative team responsible for the show.  In their video detailing why this particular production of “The Tempest” stands out from the others, director Aaron Posner calls it “the hardest, the most challenging, and the most…thrilling production” he has ever been part of.  He also went on to refer to his co-director Teller(one part of the magic duo Penn & Teller) as a genius, and that this production has the type of magic Shakespeare wished he had.  Wow. I’m not skeptical, I’m impressed by the obvious passion and fervor that went into this project and I hope it shows.

 

Side note :

Singer song writer Tom Waits also collaborated musically  with Kathleen Brennan on the music.

 

Ticket Info at the website:

http://www.scr.org/calendar/view?id=6891

 

Location & Dates :  

South Coast Repertory
655 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

August 29, 2014 – September 28, 2014

 

If you liked this article please subscribe by email on the front page at the bottom right of the page.

Read more