Friday, March 16, 2012

Show reviews for the week of March 12, 2012 - (Part 2)

When finished, don't forget to check out Part 1 of this weeks review round-up.

The M Ensemble presents Harlem Duet by Djanet Sears until March 25.  Directed by Lowell Williams and features: Christina Alexander, Ethan Henry, Rachel Finley, Yaya Browne, and John Archie.

Christine Dolen reviewed the show for the Miami Herald

Djanet Sears’ Harlem Duet is a sprawling, provocative, messy, observant, overlong yet undeniably insightful play about the shattered relationship of a wife and husband, both black, after he leaves her for a white colleague.

It’s an old, sad, oft-repeated story. But because the Toronto-based Sears wants to explore so many facets of it – its historical, sociological, political and psychological ramifications, to name just four – Harlem Duet is a richer (if sometimes maddening) contemplation of that story.

A new production of the 1997 play, which is laced with references to and influences from Othello, is the latest offering from M Ensemble at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse. Miami’s oldest black theater company has taken on a huge challenge in Harlem Duet. And the fact that much of the script’s comedy, emotional turmoil and contextual connections work as they should is due to director Lowell Williams (a University of Miami theater department faculty member) and one of the stronger casts M Ensemble has ever brought together.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theater On Stage

The poison that the abandoned wife Billie is concocting on her kitchen table for her husband Othello is just a metaphor for the toxicity of African American history on male-female relations in M Ensemble’s wildly uneven production of Harlem Duet.

Playwright Djanet Sears has crafted an intriguing contemplation of the intersection of the macro issue of race on the micro-dynamics of an individual marriage.

But Sears’ insightful script gets a hodgepodge treatment in M Ensemble’s production.  Under the leadership of Artistic Director Lowell Williams, this edition is by turns subtle and overly-melodramatic, illuminating and opaque, clear and confusing. Some performances are deeply affecting and touching, some are just plain affected and stilted – sometimes from the same actor.

And Chris Joseph has reviewed this show for the  Miami New Times

Framed with audio clips from resonant figures in black history such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Paul Robeson, and even Oprah Winfrey, Djanet Sear's Harlem Duet weaves back and forth through time, from the plantation fields of the 1800s to the streets of Harlem in the late 1990s. Inspired by Shakespeare's Othello, the production tediously tows the line of racial identity, sexual politics, and mental illness in the black community. It's a lengthy, weighty play, and one that leaves us with no easy answers.

But thanks to a solid, impressive cast from the M Ensemble — Miami's premier African-American troupe — and the fluid direction of Lowell Williams at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, the story's complexity is made easy to grasp

The Actors' Playhouse presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice until .  Directed by David Arisco, choreographed by Barbara Flaten with musical direction by Eric Alsford.  Featuring: Josh Canfield, Amy Miller Brennan, Nick Duckart, David Perez-Ribada, Christopher A. Kent, Walter Kemp II, and Henry Gainza.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theater On Stage
Frequent theatergoers approach productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with fatigue.  So it’s heartening to report that the latest edition by Actors Playhouse is a playful and imaginative riff that will entertain audiences who haven’t seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical in a while.

Frankly, a lot of people are Joseph-ed out by now, but Arisco and Company have heavily peppered the oratorio with scores upon scores of unique touches of silliness that make you laugh against your better judgment. When Pharaoh sings that something is a piece of cake, the Narrator drops off a plate of layer cake in his outstretched hand. 

And Christine Dolen reviewed the show for the Miami Herald
When Actors’ Playhouse first staged Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat a dozen years ago, the show cleaned up at the region’s annual Carbonell Awards, winning eight honors including the coveted one for best production of a musical.

Just guessing (because I’m no Joseph when it comes to predicting the future), but I don’t think the company’s Joseph revival is going to come anywhere close to that level of recognition. Nor should it.

Though Actors’ earlier and new productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s college-era musical have some key elements in common, the just-opened Joseph is overstuffed with singer-actors and underperforming as inspired musical theater.

The Plaza Theatre presents Breaking Up is Hard To Do until March 25.  Directed and choreographed by Kyle Ennis Turoff and featuring: Kyle Ennis Turoff, Alana Opie, Jeff Gregg, Berry Ayers, and Missy McArdle.

Jan Sjostrom reviewed the show for the Palm Beach Daily News
Singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka isn’t exactly a giant in the history of pop music.
You might need a few prompts before you can connect his name with tunes such as Where the Boys Are, Next Door to an Angel, Love Will Keep Us Together and Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, the title tune of the musical comedy now at The Plaza Theatre in Manalapan.

This production, which was imported from the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre in Sarasota, doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is — a cheeky, fun tale spun out Sedaka songs. Dowdy Marge and her curvy, blonde, but not-too-bright friend Lois arrive at Esther’s Paradise resort in the Catskills in the 1960s on a vacation that was intended to be Marge’s honeymoon — until the groom left her at the altar.

The Kravis Center presents the national tour of Twyla Tharp's Come Fly Away featuring the songs of Frank Sinatra.
Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theater On Stage
Twyla Tharp’s surrogates in Come Fly Away effortlessly swirl and slide across the stage like you think you do in your dreams – and to sound of Sinatra yet, crooning “The Way You Look Tonight.”

This 75-minute dance recital – it arguably doesn’t qualify as musical theater because there is not a shred of overarching plot – is an undeniably enchanting evening playing at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach this week and moving to Arsht Center in Miami next week.

Obviously, Sinatra and Tharp are among the nonpareil practitioners in their fields and nothing connected to them is ever going to be second rate. Tharp is a master at fusing modern dance, ballet and the sensuality of contemporary movement. And Sinatra is, well, Sinatra.


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