Saturday, July 21, 2012

Play reviews for the week of July 16, 2012

Gable Stage in Miami presents Race by David Mamet.  Directed by Joseph Adler and starring:  Joe Kimble, Ethan Henry, Gregg Weiner, and Jade Wheeler.  Design Team: Set Design - Lyle Baskin;  Costume Design – Ellis Tillman.

Mia Leonin reviewed the show for the The Miami herald:
Drama is an inquiry into racial guilt

Racism and the pursuit of justice seem to be two sides of the same coin, forever spinning in our nation’s media and consciousness. For this reason, a play about race will always be timely. For example, just as David Mamet’s latest play, Race, hits South Florida stages , local headlines chronicle the legacy of Rodney King, as well as the ongoing case of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teen who was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Race is always relevant. Playwright David Mamet knows this — the play debuted on Broadway 3 1/2 years ago — and so does Joe Adler, producing director of GableStage, where Race runs through Aug. 5. Adler directs this thought-provoking and often hilarious drama with a keen ear for its deft dialogue and searing innuendo.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theatre On Stage.

Director Joe Adler and his quartet of actors deftly serve an overflowing plate of ideas to chew over. Mamet, indulging his increasingly conservative bent, doesn’t just tease the constipation that political correctness has imposed on social relations but savagely rips it apart. It’s not very palatable theology for us bleeding heart liberals but it’s hard to argue with his concern that the pendulum has swung way past rational thought.

Mamet posits that an ultra-wealthy white client (Joe Kimble) has been charged with raping a young black woman in a hotel room. The client claims this was a consensual episode in a long-time relationship and he is asking for help from the high-powered law firm of two veterans of negotiating legal swamps, a white lawyer (Gregg Weiner) and his black partner of 20 years (Ethan Henry). Watching intently is an eager, black and beautiful law review grad (Jade Wheeler) who dutifully soaks up the partners’ observations.

Every time the lawyers spar, the question is rarely about the merits of evidence but how jurors will evaluate that evidence in the prism of racial politics. These men long ago jettisoned idealistic pushback against pragmatism. To them, deeply ingrained, almost unconscious prejudices of juries (and by extension, society) are not something to waste time bemoaning, only realities to exploit.

Chris Joseph wrote about the show for the Miami New Times:

The story begins with a visit from the deep-pocketed Strickland, who has already been to a rival law office but claims it wasn't suited for his case. He reveals with uncommon frankness that he wants to be represented by a firm with a black lawyer, all the while insisting on his innocence.

The facts of the case — Strickland's accuser claims the two were in his hotel suite when he raped her, a tale backed by the sworn testimony of two credible witnesses who say they heard the crime — serve little purpose other than to lay out Mamet's goal, which is: Let's everybody talk about black folks and white folks
Brown, while loathing his racist client, gives Strickland his full effort, stating that facts — not his emotions or personal opinions — will win them this case.

Roger Martin reviewed the show for the Miami ArtZine:

Mamet writes with wit and an eye-opening handle on “Justice” and director Joe Adler and his terrific cast pick up every nuance, making a talky play (and that's not a bad thing) a shining one act that may not make you a better person but will surely make you pause before you speak.

Henry, Kimble and Wheeler handle their roles well, they're always believable, always ratcheting the tension, but, damn, it's just plain hard to stand out on stage when you're sharing it with Gregg Weiner. He plays senior partner Jack Lawson, the meat role. Sure he has the most stage time, but even if he were playing the mail clerk you'd want to hang on his every little word.

The Katumba Theatre Project and Empire Stage presents Baby GirL, Written and Directed by Kim Ehly.  Starring:  Sally Bondi, Clay Cartland, Miki Edelman, David R. Gordon, Noah Levine, Nori Tecosky. Jessica Welch, and featuring Lindsey Forgey as ASHLEY                      .  Design Team: Lighting Design – Nate Sykes;  Sound Design – David Hart;  Costume Design – Kim Ehly.

Bill Hirschman reviewed the show for Florida Theatre On Stage.

For all the worries about South Florida theater, one encouraging sign is the emergence of tiny companies bent on producing thoughtful and entertaining evenings of theater with little more on the balance sheet than intelligence, imagination and enthusiasm.

Which brings us to the pleasant surprise that is Kim Ehly’s touching and rollicking play Baby GirL, the inaugural effort of her newly-minted Kutumba Theatre Project in association with Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.

When the lights first rise, we are greeted by the beaming visage of our narrator and heroine, Ashley (the winning Lindsey Forgey at her most genial). Ehly and Forgey escort us through Ashley’s problematic upbringing. She is assured she is special because she was chosen by her parents, not the result of an accident of birth. But her mother perpetually communicates her disinterest with chilly comments that are both funny and upsetting at the same time. As Ashley grows up, she exhibits not so subtle signs of her incipient sexuality, intentionally selected by Ehly to be such stereotypes as passing her Barbie dolls unopened to her best friend. She opts for obvious stereotypes so that the family’s blindness is funny in itself.

The other actors play multiple roles, relishing the absurd stretches in characterizations that they slip on and off, such as Nori Tecosky and Jessica Welch portraying lovers, friends and bed partners. Noah Levine and Clay Cartland, in particular, deliver a rogue’s gallery of wacky and whacked out friends and relatives. But the true chameleon of the group is the old hand Miki Edelman who skillfully delineates five distinct women ranging from a nasty embittered aunt to a nurturing grandmother. It’s not just that the characters are all separate entities, but every one is believable even when they’re meant to border on being cartoonish.

Michelle F. Solomon reviewed the show for the Miami ArtZine:

The seven supporting actors have a lot of work to do as each plays multiple roles as characters weave in and out of Ashley’s life, but Ehly handles this with skill and does her audience a great service by having her narrator guide us through where each of the characters fits in. Credit to the playwright for having this work so seamlessly as Ashley gently steps out of a scene to introduce it, speaking to the audience directly, then easily weaves back into the scene.

The soundtrack of Ashley’s life, set to music such as the aforementioned “Grease,” and pop hits like Culture Club and other ‘80s and ‘90s music, figures prominently in the play, too, much like the soundtrack to a John Hughes film. Ehly uses this to her advantage as it helps to move the story through different time periods.

Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote about the show for Sun-Sentinel.

South Florida-based playwright Kim Ehly (who also directed) has really written is a comedy. And it's a good one, maybe even an excellent one with a little tinkering here and there, this being the inaugural effort of Ehly's Kutumba Theatre Project.

But "Baby GirL" is blessed with offbeat humor, sly insight and a beating heart. Even better, Ehly scored a lead actor with charisma to spare in Lindsey Forgey, who plays the protagonist/narrator Ashley with alternating wide-eyed wonder and WTF resignation. Oh, yeah, there is some not-so-bad adult content here, too.

"Baby GirL" is not just another strident, woe-is-me coming-out story. It's about finding – constructing, really – a family.


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