Thursday, March 22, 2012

Play reviews for the week of March 19, 2012

When finished come back here to read the Musical Reviews for the week of March 19, 2012

Thinking Cap Theatre presents Cleansed by Sarah Kane until March 31.  Directed by Nicole Stodard and features: Daniel Nieves, Christina Jolie Breza, John Robert Warren, Andy Herrmann, Robert Alter, Desiree Mora, and Jim Gibbons.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theater On Stage

Remember in your Intro to Psych course that series of paintings of a cat by a man slowly succumbing to schizophrenia? Watching Sarah Kane plays such as Thinking Cap Theatre’s Cleansed is like that: a peek inside a disintegrating mind.  Like Kane’s Blasted at GableStage in 2010 and 4:48 Psychosis at Naked Stage in 2008, Cleansed defies reactions that involve verbs such as “liked” or even “appreciated.”

The British playwright clearly saw the world as an intolerable charnel house marked by unlimited cruelty, a bleak vision that likely fueled her suicide at age 28 in 1999. In this work as much any of hers, you likely won’t dope it all out, you likely won’t “enjoy” most of it, but your psyche won’t leave untouched.

It may not matter whether we “get it” or not. Drawing from the Theater of the Absurd and the Theater of Cruelty, Kane and Stodard create what may be the theatrical equivalent of contemporary visual art: The artist is not overly concerned that you walk away with a clear comprehension of his or her vision as the end product of the artistic process. Instead, they are pleased if the work stimulates each individual audience member in extrapolating their own vision from the experience.

Eileen Speigler reviewed the show for Miami Herald 
‘Cleansed’: a disturbing take on love

What draws your eye in the barren but vaguely ominous set for Thinking Cap Theatre’s production of Cleansed are the words “No Exit,” scrawled and dripping black on institutional white walls.  They are a sign of the visceral –– literally –– suffering to come, a primal scream on the ache of being alive.

Directed by Nicole Stodard, this could be the most bleak, provocative and intensely poetic 80 minutes of theater in recent memory. With few exceptions, the seven-member cast is not squeamish about taking on the play’s graphic sex, nudity and gore (artfully suggested in a way that doesn’t reduce its gruesomeness), even when we might be.

The characters seduce each other with “I won’t ever lie to you” and “I love you as you are” and “I’ll be whatever you need,” soon enough becoming “if I’d known” and “how dare you leave me like this.” Here relationships are a nasty business, belied, and maybe only made palatable, by those platitudes.

Love manifests in ways that are depraved, demoralizing or just dumb –– but do we want a life cleansed of that exquisite pain? This revelatory play, which can be seen through so many prisms, will really, really make you wonder.

Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed the show for the Sun Sentinel
'Cleansed': A crazy little play about love

"Cleansed" is about something dark, violent and sadomasochistic.

It's about love.

Written by the late Sarah Kane, with bravura direction by Nicole Stodard of Thinking Cap Theatre, the play is deliberately ambiguous.  Playgoers are accustomed to a narrative reaching over the footlights, past the proscenium and into the audience, calming and convincing us that there is a plan, that we are heading somewhere, no matter what fakakta stuff is happening onstage.

With "Cleansed," there is no such helping hand. If there were, Kane – a Brit who wrote five plays and one screenplay in the In-Yer-Face school of theater before committing suicide in 1999 – would have sawed that hand off (more about that later). 

Acting with real power and surprising delicacy, the cast holds "Cleansed" together, which is no small feat with a spare script in which every parsed-out word seems to have two or three meanings.  Clocking in at a brisk and engrossing 80 minutes with no intermission, loads of violence and a little nudity, "Cleansed" is not so much a straight-on punch as a visceral series of unforgettable impressions. It's brutal, transformative, obsessive, addictive, hypnotic, redemptive. You know, like love.

The Alliance Theatre Lab presents Off Center Of  Nowhere by David Michael Sirois until April 8.  Directed by Adalberto Acevedo and features: Lavonne Canfield, Andy Quiroga, Breeza Zeller, and Mclley Lafrance.

Christine Dolen reviewed the show for Miami Herald 

David Michael Sirois graduated from Miami’s New World School of the Arts not quite four years ago, yet in that time he has begun building a solid professional career as a multitalented theater artist: actor, director, playwright.

Based on just two full-length plays – Brothers Beckett and Off Center of Nowhere, both given world premieres by Alliance Theatre Lab – it may be that playwright turns out to be the major role Sirois is destined to play.

Last season’s Brothers Beckett earned Sirois a Carbonell Award nomination for best new work. (He’ll find out whether he’s won on April 2.) The just-opened Off Center of Nowhere, despite its markedly different and controversial subject matter, is another impressively crafted gem.

The new play confirms that Sirois is an impressively talented young playwright with a distinctive voice; as a writer, he’s quick, funny, adept at lacing his text with old and new pop culture references that feel organic coming from his characters’ mouths. He creates believable, complex, interesting characters of both genders. As Off Center of Nowhere so amply demonstrates, he’s not afraid to tackle tough subjects. And he does so in a way that makes you consider warring beliefs, even as you’re laughing at what Sirois has cooked up.

Ron Levitt reviewed the show for ENV Magazine

In Off Center of Nowhere’, we meet a boisterous , blue collar Italian-American family, ardent Catholics, who have recently moved into a Brooklyn apartment. Mom (Lavonne Canfield) is a nurse, Dad (a vibrant Andy Quiroga) is a postman and their 17 year old daughter Jackie (Breeza Zeller) is a very, very pregnant young lady. .  Her secret  boyfriend is a 23year old recent college grad (Mclley Lafrance), who  just  happens to be  black. That – plus the consideration of an abortion and other family secrets – explode in sitcom–worthy proportions.  This family, by the way,  does not talk; they scream (often using four letter words to make their poiint).

Just how the New England-born, Florida-educated Siriois is able to display such a keen understanding of this Brooklyn family merely enhances his writing talent.

This cast is excellent, obviously well-paced by Director Adalberto Acevedo, who gives his actors the freedom to move and yell with spontaneity.  Each scene is a wonderment, begging the audience to know what is coming next.

Sirois’ four characters are totally believable and the actors spew reality.  It is perfect casting, perfect direction by Acevedo for a perfect play.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theater On Stage

On the surface, David Michael Sirois’ Off Center of Nowhere is what would result if the Neil Simon of the 1970s wrote a rollicking comedy about teen pregnancy, abortion and racism, laced with a lot of profanity. 

The Alliance Theatre Lab’s world premiere is sit-com funny until it intentionally slams the audience into a concrete wall that will leave most observers stunned. That’s when you realize Off Center is really about the limits of how far people can bend their moral code for loved ones before breaking. How unconditional is unconditional love?

Mosaic Theatre presents Death And The Maiden by Ariel Dorfman until April 1.  Directed by Avi Hoffman and features: Laura Turnbull, Stephen G. Anthony, and Oscar Cheda.

Eileen Speigler reviewed the show for the Sun Sentinel

"Death and the Maiden" is a harrowing play. Now at the Mosaic Theatre in Plantation, the squirm-inducing tale by Ariel Dorfman is set in a country that is most likely Chile (the adopted country of the Argentine playwright). It centers on the fallout from a fascist dictatorship now that a democratic government has – finally and tenuously – come to soothe troubled waters.

Beneath the surface are strong riptides, one of which has gripped the protagonist, Paulina Salas (Laura Turnbull) and swept her away. As a political prisoner, she was tortured and raped. Now, there are "ghosts in our bed," she tells her lawyer-husband Gerardo Escobar (Stephen G. Anthony) at their beach house.

Through happenstance Paulina is reunited with the doctor, Roberto Miranda (Oscar Cheda), who she is convinced aided in her torture during the previous regime. But is he the one? She was blindfolded, so all she has to go on is his voice, his mannerisms, his scent and the feel of his skin. But he has a cassette of Franz Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" in his car, a composition played over and over during the horrendous acts.


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