Orange County Theatre Reviews

Irvine, Theater, UCI, Uncategorized Comments Off on It’s All Greek to Me! : Metamorphoses @ University of California, Irvine – Review |

It’s All Greek to Me! : Metamorphoses @ University of California, Irvine – Review

Coliin Nesmith Photos by Paul R. Kennedy

Coliin Nesmith
Photos by Paul R. Kennedy

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

The vicious tales of human error has been told in many different ways. Some of the most popular stories are those of Greek mythology, and for good reason.   The supernatural abilities possessed by the featured individuals coupled with commentary on the moral viewpoints of the time have fascinated people of all ages.  Some of these stories are retold in the form of vignettes in UC Irvine’s play Metamorphoses.

Metamorphoses is told in various short stories instead of a long story with a linear plot, it should not come as a surprise that some stories are simply more interesting than others.  The story of Cyex and Alcyone, for instance, is long (in comparison to the other events featured in the play) and deals with sorrow, but since a great majority of the plot consists of nothing more than a woman crying for her lost love interest, the audience is not quite invested.  Some of the other stories are much more intriguing and/or entertaining, but the lack of connection between each of the stories cannot be ignored.   Some of them (King Midas) seem to take place in a more contemporary setting while still others (Erysichthon) take place in the past.   Just when the viewer feels that some sort of consistent message might be breaking through, such as the transformative nature of death and love, the audience is introduced to Phaeton, who does not seem to have any sort of connection with those ideas, and thus breaks the suggestion that there is any sort of true meaning in the plot(s). If there is some kind of message. It would have to be that change is inevitable but it’s a flimsy connection at best. 

Jade Payton, Blake Morris, Rosie Brownlow, and Joshua Odess-Rubin in Metamorphoses Photos by Paul R. Kennedy

Jade Payton, Blake Morris, Rosie Brownlow, and Joshua Odess-Rubin in Metamorphoses Photos by Paul R. Kennedy

The acting is fine and the set is very well done.  The blue coloring and the glassy set give a dreamy mediterranean feel to the whole experience.  While the play isn’t riveting, the acting and the feel of the atmosphere hold the play afloat. 

7/10

Date & Location :

Nov. 15 – 23

UCI Claire Trevor Theatre

Irvine, CA 92697

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Aerial Acrobatics Can’t Elevate Pippin – Pippin @ Segerstrom Center of Performing Arts in Costa Mesa

Guest Writer

Written by Joel Beers 

It’s the same song as the “Pippin” you may be familiar with, but the national tour of the 2013 Tony Award-winner for best revival of a musical is definitely not the same dance. While some aspects of the legendary Bob Fosse,

http://www.scfta.org/

http://www.scfta.org/

who directed and choreographed the production that earned 10 1973 Tony Awards nominations and ran for nearly 2,000 performances on Broadway, remain intact, this Diane Paulus-directed show is infused with aerial acrobatics and a circus-like feel that is often jaw-dropping to watch.

Unfortunately, it’s about the only thing that is exciting about the show. Although Steven Schwartz (“Godspell,” Wicked”) received a Tony nomination for his score, there’s a reason he didn’t win. The music is largely undistinguished and the lyrics less than inspired. Most problematic, however, is Roger O. Hirson’s book. The idea of Pippin was weird in the first place—a coming to age, Siddharthan-like tale of the quest of the youngest son of legendary Medieval king Charlemagne to find fulfillment. But the execution of that story—from soldier, to artist, to religious acolyte, to farmer to ritualistic suicide shaman—seems hopelessly mired in the pining, self-centered psyche of the Me Generation era. No amount of physical bells and whistles can overshadow that.

Sasha Allen is a dynamic leading player (the role Ben Vereen is most known for) although she’s a little breathy at times, and there are fantastic performances from the ensemble, who are as equally talented singers and dancers as they are acrobats. In the supporting roles, Lucie Arnaz is an eminently likeable Berthe and the lithe and leggy Sabrina Harris, as Pippin’s manipulative step-mother, Fastrada, nearly steals every scene she’s in. But Kyle Dean Massey, who shared in playing the role on Broadway, can do nothing with the terrible dialogue and motivation he’s given. The guy’s got a great voice, but his Pippin is more whiny and petulant than heroic and adventurous. You feel his frustration at wanting to live an extraordinary life, but you also wish he’d stop coming off as a spoiled brat. By the time he is forced with his climactic decision—The Lizard King perched above a flaming pyre and exhorted by the rest of his fellow troubadours to sacrifice himself for his calling—it feels less like an urgent dramatic moment, and more of an acid trip that wasn’t that trippy to begin with gone bad.

This 21st Century “Pippin” is a delight to look at it. But it remains a bore to listen to.

6/10

Date & Location :

November 11 – 23, 2014

Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA

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Costa Mesa, interview, Preview, Uncategorized Comments Off on Playwright Nicolas Juarez goes back to High School – Whisper All The Time @ Estancia High School in Costa Mesa |

Playwright Nicolas Juarez goes back to High School – Whisper All The Time @ Estancia High School in Costa Mesa

Written by Patrick Chavis 

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I met play-write Nick Juarez last weekend inside a mobile home record store in the middle of the hyper-hipster paradise known as “The LAB” nestled in Costa Mesa, California. I’d never met Nick before but he was the only person in the trailer, so I took a guess and he greeted me nicely. We walked from the record store to a table near the middle of the Anti-mall. I started the interview by trying to get more information about the guy.  Who is Nick? What inspires him to write? But he just didn’t seem interested in himself.  Instead he focused on the kids in his new play Whisper all the Time and Estancia High School, the place that made him who he is today. Continue Reading

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Into the Woods – They Still Got It (Thoughts on the Reunion and the Show In General) @ Segerstrom Center of Performing Art in Costa Mesa

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE SHOW

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

 It has been confirmed.  That spark of electricity that made the original Broadway cast of Into the Woods so unutterably unique still remains.  I can say this with absolute certainty, because I just attended the Into the Woods reunion performance this past weekend at Segerstrom Center of Performing Art in Costa Mesa.  It was so beautiful, I fell in love again.

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Chapman, Orange, Review, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on Tolstoy meets Havana : Anna In the Tropics @ Chapman University – Review |

Tolstoy meets Havana : Anna In the Tropics @ Chapman University – Review

Anna in the tropicsWritten by Patrick Chavis

Set in a Cuban immigrant cigar factory in 1929, the happiness and turmoil brought on by the classic Russian novel Anna Karenina brings to light hard universal truths about love, pride and tragedy. These concepts were explored thoroughly Thursday night in the Pulitzer winning play, “Anna In the Tropics” at Chapman University’s Waltmar Theatre.

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Frighteningly Dull – The Haunting of Hill House @ Costa Mesa Playhouse in Costa Mesa – Review

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Stephanie Thomas, John Sturgeon, Kay Richey, Robin L. Watkins, Elle Grant, Gabriel Lawrence

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A group of people, a haunted house.  A large and ominous mansion that at times seems to have a will of its own, psychologically controlling its hosts and keeping viewers on tenterhooks.  This premise is used in many ghost stories, including the classic horror film The Haunting, which was adapted from Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House.  Imagine a story based on psychological torment, spiritual manipulation, and a desperation for safety that contrasts sharply with a desperation for belonging–now imagine a stage production of that story which methodically strips away most of that tension and you’ve basically summed up the Costa Mesa Playhouse show.  

 

The year is 1960.  A scientist by the name of Dr. Montague has requested that several people join him in the dreaded Hill House, which has a history of people leaving with recommendations that the house be burned to the ground.  These people are: Eleanor–a timid woman, who once had what might be deemed an “otherworldly” encounter as a child. Theodora–a brazen artist who can identify “19 out of 20 cards” when they are held out of her view, and Luke–the young man who will one day inherit Hill House.   They are joined at intervals by the hilarious housekeeper Mrs. Dudley, and the doctor’s own wife Mrs. Montague with her assistant Arthur.  As the play progresses the group is frightened by various aspects of the house, and Eleanor’s own state of mind deteriorates more severely than anyone could have anticipated.

 

  With limited space the production designer created a lovely and realistic looking living room and bedroom.  The bedroom door, which plays a significant part, is well structured in its role.  While not overly spacious, the stage is sufficiently spaced and decorated for its purpose. Largely, the issues arrive not because of the space but because of the lack of movement. 

HH9 - Barbara Duncan Brown, Elle Grant

Barbara Duncan Brown, Elle Grant

 

The players do not move enough.   As previously stated, the audience only has access to the living room and the bedroom.  The moments that take place in the hallway or the tower are voiced by the actors offstage and then discussed later in front of the audience.  It is entirely possible for this format to work.   But that would require the characters to be moving around in the space, and they simply do not.  Instead they sit or stand in one place for long periods of time, moving only occasionally,  seemingly devoid of purpose except that an invisible director told them that it was time to switch from the chair to the sofa.  The lighting is appropriate for setting one mood, but fails to transition into a “storytelling” mode.  In a suspenseful story, things like tone are pivotal, but the lighting of this story does not adjust.  


 

Acting wise the Lead actress Stephanie Thomas is appropriately timid and withdrawn from the beginning, but her loss of sanity fails to come across.  Her Eleanor doesn’t change enough to make the audience feel genuine concern for her well being.  Elle Grant is miscast as Theodora, for although the character is intended to be young and beautiful, it is painful to hear Theodora refer to Eleanor as “kid” and “baby” when Eleanor appears to be in her 40s and Theodora could easily be a high school student.  Gabriel Lawrence is inconceivably monotone as  Luke.  His use of inflection and phrasing is completely devoid of feeling.  The best performance of the night is that of Barbara Duncan Brown.  Her Mrs.  Dudley is cold, purpose driven, and creepy. Honestly, rent the original (1963) movie the Haunting. It’s cheaper & you’ll actually get the scare, you were looking for.      

 

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Ticket Info at the website:

http://www.costamesaplayhouse.com/

 

Location & Dates :  

661 Hamilton St, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

October 24th – November 16th 

 

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