Friday, May 11, 2012

Show reviews for the week of May 7, 2012

The Miami Stage Door Theatre presents Six Dance Lessons In six Weeks by Richard Alfieri.  Directed by Dan Kelley and features: Larry Buzzeo and Phyllis Spear.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theater On Stage
Stage Door’s Six Dance Lessons Needs Evenly Matched Partners

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is a gentle message comedy about lonely people reaching out somewhat obliquely for human contact. But this occasionally charming pas de deux at Stage Door’s Miami Beach venue is thrown out of step because one partner is far more vibrant than the other.

This unabashedly sentimental trifle tells of a flamboyantly gay dance instructor  Michael (Larry Buzzeo) who has been hired by Lily, a minister’s wife and former schoolteacher (Phyllis Spear), to teach her in the living room of her senior condo in St. Petersburg.

Michael has an uncensored acerbic mouth, a blue vocabulary and a cynical view on everything from leaving his career as a Broadway chorus boy for this “last notch on the Bible Belt” to dissing enduring love as a myth like Santa Claus.

Lily initially is a buttoned-down cold fish but she eventually proves she can toss a wisecrack back as well as he can. Predictably, this is a love story in the making as the two bit-by-bit share the sadnesses in their lives, inevitably unlocking their compassion.

But it requires both actors (to) invest the script with an extra level of energy and charisma for this to really have any electricity arcing on the stage. In this case, only Buzzeo delivers that. True, he has the showier role and he makes the most of it without going over the top. But Spear needs to dig a lot deeper into her inner curmudgeon and give Buzzeo a flintier, more vital force to work with. In fact, Buzzeo starts off strong, but eventually he needs an equal partner to feed his performance.

Director Dan Kelley brings out what he can in the script (he’d have made a perfect Michael a few years ago), but the only scene that really shines is in the confessional scene when the two characters admit their deepest tragedies.
Christine Dolen reviewed the show for the The Miami Herald:
‘Six Dance Lessons’ tracks an unlikely friendship

Stage Door Theatre’s comedy pairs a judgmental widow and an uncensored ex-dancer.  At their first meeting, minister’s widow Lily Harrison and ex-chorus boy Michael Minetti are like oil and water.

Richard Alfieri’s Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is the simplest of plays, a poignant if somewhat flawed two-character comedy that tracks the evolution of that unlikely friendship over seven scenes. It was produced at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 2003, with ex- Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan as Lily and former Star Wars hero Mark Hamill as Michael. But as the new Dan Kelley-directed production at the Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre demonstrates, Six Dance Lessons doesn’t need stars to connect with an audience.

Set in Lily’s rather spartan condo with a nonetheless pricey view of the sunset over St. Petersburg Beach, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is a bit formulaic, with each scene built around Michael “teaching” Lily a different style of dance, though it’s clear from the get-go that the lady can move. What makes the play more interesting are the lessons Michael and Lily learn when there’s no music playing.

Gable Stage presents Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies. Directed by Joe Adler and features: Deborah L Sherman, Steve Garland, Gregg Weiner, and betsy Graver. Design Team: Set Design – Lyle Baskin; Lighting Design – Jeff Quinn; Sound Design – Matt Corey.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theater On Stage
“Time Stands Still” Is Fodder For Introspection As Drama Unfolds

The irony of the play Time Stands Still is that, in fact, time doesn’t stand still.  It’s the inability of people to change with it that constitutes one of several tragedies in Donald Margulies’ drama enjoying a solid production at GableStage.

Forgive the inflexibility of the lovers at the story’s core. They are foreign correspondents whose work in war-torn and famine-plagued hotspots is creating frozen shards of time so that we can examine them and our conscience at our leisure.

Director Joe Adler and a fine quartet of actors deliver such a skilled naturalistic portrait of two couples that you occasionally forget you are watching theater and feel a little uncomfortable eavesdropping on private moments.
In truth, this is not a thrilling or enthralling production; it’s one that keeps you thinking long after the lights come back up about whether we are jettisoning our responsibility as human beings to, first, feel something and, second, act on it. Adler, Margulies and Company have provided rich fodder for protracted post-show debates.

Lovers James and Sarah grapple with the contradictory paradigm of journalism: being knee deep in the viscera of tragedy while keeping it at an emotional arm’s length. The trick has always been preserving your humanity when you get too proficient at putting your compassion in a lockbox during crises. Sometimes you forget where you put the key when it’s time to come home and resume “a real life.”

Sarah (Deborah L. Sherman) has been scarred and crippled by a roadside bomb that killed her assistant. James (Steve Garland) was back in the United States at the time undergoing psychiatric counseling after being traumatized by yet one more horrific incident.

Sarah finds the meaning of her life in a sacred calling of spotlighting the horror for the world to see. She can’t wait to go back. “Without us, who would know? Who would care?” she says.
But James has finally seen too much and yearns for a conventional life. “I don’t want to watch children die; I want to watch children grow,” he says.

Sarah reacts with wittily sardonic and sarcastic comments when faced with the comparative banalities of everyday life. Exhibit one is the almost clichéd mid-life crisis relationship between their long-time friend Richard (Gregg Weiner), a photo editor who often commissions their work, and his newest girlfriend, the much younger Mandy (Betsy Graver), an event planner who is seemingly far shallower.

Lyle Baskin once again provides a convincing environment, this time James and Sarah’s Brooklyn apartment. But the highest praise goes to Jeff Quinn’s evocative lighting. He creates shifting moods with different lighting schemes for the same apartment, including subtly changes in the cityscape outside the window. Much as he did for GableStage’s Fifty Words, Quinn also creates different patterns by having characters turn on lights in different parts of the apartment as they move about.
Christine Dolen reviewed the show for The Miami Herald:
War wounds run deep in ‘Time Stands Still’

Photojournalists freeze moments in time, some beautiful, others gruesome. These committed visual storytellers document history, moment by moment, and their work can bring awareness or even spur change. But at what cost to the person behind the camera?

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies explores those questions and many others in Time Stands Still, a 2010 Broadway hit that has just opened at GableStage under the direction of Joseph Adler. As in Dinner With Friends, the play that won him drama’s top honor, Margulies creates believable, contemporary characters whose life issues resonate with people who go to the theater. Time Stands Still is, however, more an intriguing character study than a fully realized, compelling play.

Impeccably produced, GableStage’s Time Stands Still unfolds on Lyle Baskin’s simple but handsome loft set, a place decorated with the books and photographs and world-travel souvenirs you would expect to find in James and Sarah’s home base. Sound designer Matt Corey frames the action with mournful jazz, and lighting designer Jeff Quinn suggests both Mandy’s brightness and the moodier crossroads faced by Sarah and James. Ellis Tillman’s costume choices convey class, age and taste, from the dressed-down journalists to Richard’s expensive menswear to Mandy’s young, sexy style.

Adler gets strong, intricately detailed performances from all four actors. Sherman is a fierce, always believable Sarah, even when she and Garland are dealing with brief and unnecessary nudity that isn’t in Margulies’ script. Garland is, arguably, a bit too jolly and for a guy who’s dealing with guilt while working his way through the aftermath of a breakdown, but he and Sherman suggest a long familiarity. Weiner’s Richard is smart, manipulative and self-justifying, though he subtly melts in the presence of the life force that is Graver’s radiant Mandy.
Roger Martin Atca reviewed the show for the miamiartzine:
‘Time Stands Still’

Photograph a dying baby lying on a dusty road. Carefully replace the lens cap. Walk away. It's just a job. Move on.
You didn't help? You didn't put down your camera and pick up the dying baby? What kind of woman are you?

A badly damaged one, this war photographer Sarah Goodwin, as she enters her apartment at the top of Time Stands Still, Joe Adler's latest production at Gable Stage. A month earlier, Sarah (Deborah Sherman) had been blown up by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Her leg is in multiple braces, arm in a sling, and the entire right side of her face is scarred from flying shrapnel. It's not only her body that's hurting; so is her brain. She's burning with the guilt of years of snapping the dead and dying all around the world. But of course she won't admit it. And never will. Deborah Sherman is perfect as the acerbic, adrenalin junky Sarah.

She shares the apartment with her live-in lover, James Dodd (Steve Garland). They've been together eight and a half years. He's the war writer to her photographer, but he got shipped back just before she was blown up. He couldn't shake off the splattered blood and brains of the young girls killed so close to him he was drenched with their remains. Steve Garland is perfect as the man who wants to flee the war zones and raise a family. With Sarah.

The editor who publishes her photos and his text is their long-time friend, Richard Erlich, (Gregg Weiner), who's finally found love with his ditzy young girlfriend. Gregg Weiner is perfect as the old friend who tries to, but cannot, chase the demons away from Sarah and James

Betsy Graver is the ditzy young girlfriend, Mandy Bloom, or so you'd like to think. But she's anything but a vapid maiden, for in reality her innocence is the only thing that makes sense in the lives of the four. Betsy Graver is perfect as the hot, hot babe who makes at least one person happy.
Chris Joseph wrote about the play for the New Times
GableStage's ‘Time Stands Still’ Surveys War's Damage at Home

The only part that could be considered a review is this:

As with every GableStage production, Time Stands Still is anchored by fine work. Adler draws crisp performances from his ensemble, particularly from Sherman, who deftly gives Sarah's pain and hardened outer shell some humanity. It would be easy to dislike this war junkie, even with her injuries. But Sherman makes her wholly human, someone we all know. Garland is genuinely affable and compassionate as the loyal-to-a-fault James, all while keeping an inner passion bottled up for the sake of his and Sarah's delicate relationship. Graver does a fantastic job of keeping Mandy's simple worldview grounded without turning the character into a cliché. The always-excellent Weiner as Richard is warm and funny; he really shows his versatility by playing a more compliant role than he usually plays.


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