Orange County Theatre Reviews

Review, Santa Ana, Santa Ana College, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot @ Santa Ana College – Review |

The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot @ Santa Ana College – Review

(Photos: Jaime Diaz)

Written by Patrick Chavis

After watching The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Santa Ana College, I was reminded about not just the nature of drama but comedy as well.  Good drama — if not always then very often –requires comedy to lighten the load of the story especially when it comes to very difficult topics or subject matter. Comedy should balance the drama in a yin and yang sort of way so that comedic and dramatic parts of the play complement each other.  In this production, playing only one more weekend at the Phillips Hall in Santa Ana, the dramatic and comedic elements tended to fight each other instead of complementing the narrative.  Still,  there is plenty of meaty material coming from some very talented actors as well as some brave, enlightened scene staging.    Continue Reading

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Irvine, Review, Theater, UCI, Uncategorized Comments Off on Black & White Gothic Tale : Clybourne Park @ University of California, Irvine – Review |

Black & White Gothic Tale : Clybourne Park @ University of California, Irvine – Review

Daniella Litvak 

Clybourne Park is a title that would not be out of place on a bookshelf of Gothic novels.  The play itself has a lot of Gothic elements and the setting is gloomy.  There is a fallen hero in the story and the characters are dealing with doubt, tragedy, and transition.  All of these features add atmosphere and tension to this satire about race and real estate. 

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Nicole Cowans and Amandla Bearden star in “Clybourne Park” Photos by Paul R. Kennedy

The play begins in the year 1959.  Bev and Russ are selling their home in Clybourne Park –a suburban neighborhood in Chicago.  However, the community is appalled to learn the buyers are African-American.  Flash forward to 2009 where Clybourne Park has become a predominately African-American neighborhood, and a white couple are moving in. Continue Reading

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Costa Mesa, interview, podcast, Uncategorized Comments Off on AMB Theatre Podcast #12 presented by OCR – Urine Town – Orange Coast College 05/2015 |

Costa Mesa, Musical, Review, Uncategorized, Vanguard Uni Comments Off on Kiss Me, Kate – Vanguard University in Costa Mesa – Review |

Kiss Me, Kate – Vanguard University in Costa Mesa – Review

Written by Alina Mae Wilson  

Kiss Me Kate - Lobby Photos 027

photo by Susie Sprinkel Hudson

I went into Vanguard University’s production of Kiss Me, Kate being very familiar with Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew but knowing very little about Kiss Me, Kate, except it had some Shakespeare in it.  Now some of the Bard’s works have aged very well.  Even if you don’t agree with them, a lot of his characters are sympathetic, and their motivations are not as dated as one might think–most high schoolers can see themselves in the classic lovers Romeo and Juliet, even if the pair are now typically viewed as some of the least intelligent characters in works of fiction.  The Taming of the Shrew is not one of those plays. Our ideas and opinions regarding the treatment of women have shifted enough that the viewer/reader recognizes how tasteless and ludicrous the treatment of women in days past was and any laughter stems from that recognition.  The play within a play Kiss Me, Kate provides a backbone for Shakespeare’s story, allowing us to laugh more easily at the show, and it is played well by Vanguard University’s sprightly cast. 

We see the traveling cast of The Taming of the Shrew is preparing for another opening. The lead actors in the play, Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham play the characters Katherine and Petruchio. This former wife and husband –like their characters in the play –are not getting along.  She’s something of a snob.  He’s…also something of a snob, so they are pretty much made for each other.  Another couple –Lois and Bill, who have the roles of Bianca and Lucentio in the show –are also having some (though not to the same extreme) problems.  Bill signed an IOU to the mob in Fred’s name, and Bianca is a little too flirtatious.  A pair of gangsters arrive on the scene to collect money from Fred and insist on being a part of the play in order to keep a better eye on him.  Insert song and dance numbers as required. 

Kiss Me Kate - Lobby Photos 025

photo by Susie Sprinkel Hudson

The set was nicely put together.  They have a rotating stage, which enables the audience to see the ‘behind-the-scenes’ action and better envision the chaos when it is not happening directly in front of you.  The costumes are bright and colorful.  The props are sufficient.  This is not a dark show in any way, so the brightness and pep coming with a set such as this is perfectly suitable, and the cheery band manages to beautifully play every note without overpowering the singers.

Across the board the acting is pretty solid.  Every now and again an ensemble member stares off into space, but for the most part the actors are engaged in the moment.  Special mention goes to ensemble member Winter Bassett.  She is captivating.  Her quirky, perky energy is infectious, and there are times when you’ll have to work to take your eyes off her.  Kelsi Coleman is also a commanding figure and undeniably worthy of her role as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine. She is snide, cold, aggressive, warm, and doting in all the right ways.  She simply wears the character of Lilli Vanessi very well.   I also would not be able to sleep tonight if I did not mention Mark Austin Nunn, who plays one of the goofy gangsters fabulously.  He is extravagant and ridiculous without crossing the line into sheer stupidity.  In other words, he does it without looking like he is trying too hard. He grimaces, gambols, and blusters, but he does it with such simple sincerity that for the most part one can’t help but grin when he is around.   This thug is clearly an unintelligent fellow, but Nunn manages to play the character without some of the drunkenness that could easily have accompanied this part.

Kiss Me Kate - Lobby Photos 017

photo by Susie Sprinkel Hudson

The weakness of the performance is the vocals.  The lead performers are mostly fine, but the ensemble’s singing gets shaky and out of tune from time to time.  Fortunately, I do not have to say the same thing about the dancing.  The choreography is good, and the actors know it well.  The actual songs can be fun, but some of them are too long and don’t have an actual point, which leads to boredom no matter how well the dance numbers are put together.  I cite “Too Darn Hot” as a reference.  This song is pure filler and has absolutely nothing to do with anything.  There are several numbers like this, and they are a drag.  Meanwhile, the songs moving the plot along are delightful.

Plot Hole – Lois and Bill are presented as relevant people in the story, and then they are casually brushed aside as the ending nears. The useless songs and underdeveloped story issues ultimately prevents this musical from actually being or saying anything relevant. That being said, the occurrences backstage do provide a backbone, and although that backbone sometimes seems feeble and weak, it is strong enough to support the beauty of their fully fleshed out production of The Taming of the Shrew.

Side note :  Spoke to soon, you can throw this show on the list of best shows of the month. 

8/10

April 10-12, 16-18, 23-26

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