Thursday, April 26, 2012

Show reviews for the week of April 23, 2012

First Step Productions and Empire Stage presents the World Premiere of Last Call by Terri Girvin.  Directed by Michael Leeds and featuring: Terri Girvin.  Sound Design by Phil Pallazzolo and David Hart.

Rod Stafford Hagwood reviewed the show for The Sun-Sentinel

The thing about a one-woman show, in this case the world premiere of "Last Call" at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale, is that it almost always comes off as indulgent.

Thankfully, that is not the case with this 80-minute, no-intermission whirlwind of a show written by and starring Terri Girvin. "Last Call" doesn't pause long enough to be immoderate as Girvin whips through one shift as a bartender in Manhattan.

That alone would be interesting enough, but this intricately choreographed piece dives headfirst into deeper waters as Girvin's character wrestles with her oh-so-needy mom, a woman we only know from her phone calls and is apparently in her last desperate hours before becoming homeless.

Again, a one-person show so dependent on a dizzying amount of sound cues – cash registers, slicing limes, happy-hour chatter, phone calls, liquor pours, clinking glasses – easily could have slipped into Disasterville, population one. But director Michael Leeds and sound designers Phil Pallozzalo and David Hart support their star beautifully, allowing her to give a bravura performance.

Christine Dolen reviewed the show for The Miami Herald: 
A bartender pours out her story in "Last Call"
Directed by Michael Leeds, with an absolutely vital and superb sound design by Phil Pallazzolo and David Hart, Last Call keeps tugging the engaging, funny Girvin from present to past, from the bar to the giddy messed-up life of her mother Gwen. Girvin plays herself and sometimes her mom, with other actors supplying the voices of the bar’s customers, Girvin’s remarried dad and her three brothers. No one in the family, including the otherwise empathetic Girvin, is willing to let zany Gwen back into their lives.

Gwen’s repeated calls are like little psychodrama breaks on a night that will see Girvin walking 11 miles, back and forth, back and forth, behind the bar. She explains how she sets up the bar to facilitate smooth, fast movement; how the pour spouts and the money in the cash drawer all have to point the same way; how some customers deserve a “buy back” (a free drink) and others never will.

Roger Martin reviewed the show for The MiamiArtZine:
Last Call: Life Behind the Bar

Well directed by Michael Leeds, Last Call is an eighty-five minute autobiographical one act set in a New York neighborhood bar and Girvin is the bartender and sole performer who splendidly interacts with the taped customers' voices and sound effects. She also plays the part of her own mother. Who calls incessantly throughout the show.

The voice overs and the sound effects are extraordinarily well done. It requires no stretch to visualize the lone drunken regular, the rowdy group of guys, the girls and their wine, the anxious guy waving his money for attention. Two sound designers get credit for this excellent work: Phil Palazzolo and David Hart.

By its nature Last Call fits well into the small space that is Empire Stage. The set is sparse, but that's just fine as Girvin paints a no longer young woman proud of her different upbringing by her different mother, but equally saddened by her mother's slow descent into a personal hell. 

The Mosaic Theatre presents A Measure of Cruelty by Joe Calarco.  Directed by Richard Jay Simon and featuring: Dennis Creaghan, Todd Allen Durkin, and Andrew Wind.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for The Florida Theater On Stage
Neither protagonists nor antagonists, the haunted trio at the center of A Measure of Cruelty are desperately seeking compassion and redemption for their separate sins when all they can find in themselves are levels of self-disgust.

Yes, this was the drama originally entitled The Michael Brewer Project, referring to the nationally infamous incident of 2009 when four boys doused a 15-year-old Deerfield Beach Middle School student with a flammable liquid and lit him afire.

But let’s make this crystal: The local familiarity with this specific incident has virtually nothing to do with this play’s devastating impact. You could switch in different names and specifics and have the same effect. Unfortunately, horrifying incidents have become such an epidemic that striking a resonating chord among audiences around the country will be the least of this play’s problems. While this work was inspired by the Michael Brewer tragedy and references it directly, this is meant to be a far more universal examination of broader issues, not a docudrama.

We can’t say enough about Durkin’s work here. He spends much of the play struggling to keep nightmares at bay, a permanent scowl in his expression as if he can’t get an acrid taste out of his mouth.  But at one point, when all the scalding bile inside boils up, we watch him physically battle his own body, clutching himself to keep from splitting open, nearly ripping his head off its shoulders, chugging vodka to quench the lava rising in his throat, then nearly vomiting it. It’s stunning to watch him turn himself inside out battling revulsion. But it’s merely the showiest passage in an entire evening’s performance of theatrical excellence in which he inhabits, not creates a character.

Christine Dolen reviewed the show for The Miami Herald:
‘A Measure of Cruelty’ explores bullying, violence

Under the direction of Richard Jay Simon, who shaped the play while Calarco was busy with his own theater work, all three actors (Todd Allen Durkin, Andrew Wind, and Dennis Creaghan) give intense performances – Durkin especially. At a critical moment, when Buddy is demonstrating to Derek how a terrified Michael Brewer must have felt, watching the confrontation is nearly unbearable.

Thematically, A Measure of Cruelty aims to demonstrate how one macho admonition – be a man! – can lead to disaster, as all three characters prove. Yet the relationship of Buddy and Derek is muddy, even mystifying. Despite a relevant childhood trauma, Buddy and his story belong in a different play on a different subject. Though he writes vivid scenes and speeches, Calarco has crafted an 85-minute script that is too diffuse. A Measure of Cruelty simply doesn’t coalesce into a powerful, memorable theater experience.

Roger Martin reviewed the show for The MiamiArtZine:
A Measure of Cruelty: The Essence of a Bully

Durkin gives us a bitter soldier, horrified at the acts he committed and witnessed, anguished at the loss of his wife, perhaps assuaging his guilt by sheltering Derek, whom he despises. He suffers from flashbacks, terrible grief and a capacity for violence he can barely control. Durkin's range, as Buddy, is mesmerizing from start to finish.

Wind drowns the stage in words, an endless outpouring of teen cool, and in so doing makes his glib chatter and street posing a wave that washes across the theatre. You can't remember the words, only the being swept away.

And Creaghan ties it all together with his quiet regret at growing old, the secrets, the failures, the misdeeds.

A Measure of Cruelty is well written, marred only by a feeling that perhaps there's a little too much going on. And that in itself reflects the truth of bullying.

Ron Levitt wrote for ENV Magazine:

Director Richard Jay Simon moves this drama along at a stunning pace, with the prowess of Durkin and two other award-worthy performances – Dennis Creaghan as Teddy (the father) and Andrew Wind (as Derek, one of the young criminals). Both Creaghan and Wind give A-One performances, even though the intense dramatic role goes to Durkin. Both Creaghan and Durkin — as well as Simon – have been awarded Carbonells for their theatrical knowhow. And, Wind won’t be far behind with his excellent premiere performance at Mosaic.

Technically, this production is in an A-class, with set designer Douglas Grinn providing a realistic neighborhood bar for the action, and lighting and sound by the creative team of John Hall and Matt Corey respectively.

The Broward Stage Door Theatre presents Little Shop of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman until May 20.  Directed by Dan Kelley and features: Michael Linden, Bob Levitt, Erica Lustig, and Matthew William Chizever. With Kassiopia DeVora, Amber Hurst-Martin and Jasmin Richardson as the Motown Singing Narrators and Marcus Davis as the voice of Audrey II.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theater On Stage

Sometimes, when the material is strong enough, success means just getting out of its way. For the most part, that’s what a cast of strong singers and the director do to make Broward Stage Door’s Little Shop of Horrors a smile-inducing entertainment.

We caught one of the last previews for scheduling reasons, so the production had another few days to fine-tune the show. But the only real fault that was that most of the evening could have used a little more zip. This was clear any time Chizever came on stage; you could feel the whole enterprise kick up a notch from the electricity he brought to a wide array of parts.

The best news is that the pre-recorded music tracks – enabling the score to have a full sound on a budget – are once again the skilled work of former Floridian David Cohen. If you must go with canned music as Stage Door opts to in order to give its audience the sense of a full band, Cohen delivers multi-layered pristine soundtracks with room for the singers to caress the lyrics. Two recent Stage Door productions, My Fair Lady and Guys & Dolls were crippled by the sub-standard recordings provided by some mass production house.

Christine Dolen reviewed the show for The Miami Herald:

Audrey II, the forever-ravenous plant from the hit musical Little Shop of Horrors, is flowering again, this time at the Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs. Inspired by Roger Corman’s 1960 comic horror flick, the ongoing life of the Howard Ashman-Alan Menken musical proves the truth of the show’s central premise: Humans may come and go, but the people-eating Audrey II is forever.

Set on New York’s Skid Row, in a pathetically under-performing flower shop owned by the gruff Mr. Mushnik (a blustering Bob Levitt), Little Shop of Horrors follows the blooming love story of the shop’s two employees, the geeky Seymour (Michael Linden) and bottle-blond Audrey (Erica Lustig). Plenty of obstacles thwart the pair: Sales are nonexistent, Seymour worships Audrey from afar, and Audrey is a case study in low self-esteem. She also happens to have a sadistic boyfriend, dentist Orin Scrivello (Matthew William Chizever), who treats her like a pretty punching bag.

As usual, big-gal Audrey II is played by two guys. Curtis Roth manipulates her, and Marcus Davis does the voice. But it’s Chizever who earns MVP honors in Stage Door’s Little Shop, playing the demented dentist, a businessman-botanist and all manner of people (male and female) interested in Audrey II. A quick-changing chameleon who’s perfectly at home chewing the tacky scenery, Chizever works like fertilizer on the show, feeding it energy and a glorious goofiness.


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More