Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Theater roundup: A fine 'Candida,' an incomplete 'Desire'

John Leonard Thompson and Kim Cozort in Candida.

Candida
(Palm Beach Dramaworks‭; ‬through Nov.‭ ‬21‭)

Palm Beach Dramaworks,‭ ‬which recently announced plans to move into the vacant Cuillo Centre space a block away from its Banyan Boulevard ‬playhouse in West Palm Beach,‭ ‬continues to take the high road of offering up the towering writers for the stage that other South Florida troupe shy away from.

Think O‭’‬Neill,‭ ‬Ibsen and now George Bernard Shaw,‭ ‬whose early work‭ ‬Candida is the young socialist playwright‭’‬s winking look at the institution of marriage and the gulf between genders,‭ ‬with the Irish Nobel laureate-to-be coming down decidedly on his feminist side.

This Shavian romantic comedy pits a verbose parson against a puppyish young poet,‭ ‬both vying for the affections of alluring Candida,‭ ‬who just happens to be the parson‭’‬s wife of many years.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬when socially awkward Eugene Marchbanks arrives and announces his intentions to steal Candida away with him,‭ ‬he and the Rev.‭ ‬James Morell pigheadedly demand that she choose between them,‭ ‬underestimating her response.

John Leonard Thompson,‭ ‬back at Dramaworks after a stunning turn as Teach in last season‭’‬s‭ ‬American Buffalo,‭ ‬gives a terrific,‭ ‬wholly different performance as another misguidedly self-assured character.‭ ‬Kim Cozort easily makes the case for why men seem to fall instantly in love with Candida and,‭ ‬as Marchbanks,‭ ‬Will Connolly walks the tricky tightrope,‭ ‬rendering him inept,‭ ‬but not inane. -- H. Erstein

CANDIDA,‭ ‬Palm Beach Dramaworks,‭ ‬322‭ ‬Banyan Blvd.,‭ ‬West Palm Beach.‭ ‬Through Nov.‭ ‬21.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$47.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬561‭) ‬514-4042.

***

Hannia Guillen and Jim Ballard in The Color of Desire.


The Color of Desire
(Actor‭s' Playhouse‭; ‬through Nov.‭ ‬7‭)

It is a coup whenever a South Florida theater snags the world premiere of a play by Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz‭ (‬Anna in the Tropics‭)‬,‭ ‬even if that script seems not yet to have reached its final form.‭ ‬That is the case with‭ ‬The Color of Desire,‭ ‬a murky game of role-playing set against the early days after the Cuban Revolution.

The script has plenty of Cruz‭’‬s signature verbal virtuosity and is certainly authentic in its depiction of‭ ‬1960‭ ‬Havana,‭ ‬but it receives a too literal production under David Arisco‭’‬s direction at Actors‭’‬ Playhouse,‭ ‬where more ambiguity seems called for.‭ ‬An unsettling shift between reality and fantasy is what I recall from my first exposure to the play at Florida Stage‭’‬s‭ ‬1st Stage Festival two years ago,‭ ‬but rewrites and seeing it fully produced has made that mood of mystery evaporate.

Still,‭ ‬it is a new work by Cruz,‭ ‬a master storyteller who spins evocative images that stick in the brain.‭ ‬At its center is an American businessman‭ (‬Jim Ballard‭)‬,‭ ‬worried about having his operation nationalized,‭ ‬but not so preoccupied that he does not woo and hire a local actress‭ (‬Hannia Guillen‭) ‬to play the part of former lover of his,‭ ‬offstage and in the bedroom.‭ ‬Filling out the cast well are Barbara Sloan and Michael Serratore as carefree American unable to say goodbye to Cuba,‭ ‬and two extraneous,‭ ‬but amusing costume shop workers‭ (‬Isabel Moreno,‭ ‬Teresa Maria Rojas‭)‬.

Chances are‭ ‬The Color of Desire will one day be the compelling portrait of Cruz‭’‬s homeland in upheaval,‭ ‬but it is not there yet. – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

THE COLOR OF DESIRE,‭ ‬Actors' Playhouse,‭ ‬280‭ ‬Miracle Mile,‭ ‬Coral Gables.‭ ‬Through Nov.‭ ‬7.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$40-$48.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬305‭) ‬444-9293.

***

Bridge and Tunnel
(Women‭’‬s Theatre Project‭; ‬through Nov.‭ ‬7‭)

When I whine about the limitations of one-person shows,‭ ‬what I really mean are one-person,‭ ‬one-character shows,‭ ‬those wooden biographical evenings that are as dramatic as recitations from an encyclopedia.‭ ‬On the other hand,‭ ‬such actresses as Lily Tomlin‭ (‬The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the‭ ‬Universe‭) ‬and Anna Deavere Smith‭ (‬Fires in the Mirror‭) ‬have generated some entertaining and thought-provoking theater by crowding the stage with their multiple personalities.

Add to that list Karen Stephens,‭ ‬a rubber-faced master of dialects who populates and tames the problematic storefront space of The Women‭’‬s Theatre Project with Sarah Jones‭’‬ Tony-winning performance piece,‭ ‬Bridge and Tunnel.‭ ‬If America is a melting pot,‭ ‬the crucible is a tiny stage in South Queens,‭ ‬where a multicultural parade of‭ ‬vivid characters pour out their hearts at an amateur poetry competition.‭ ‬That is premise enough for Stephens to show off her acting versatility as she inhabits some‭ ‬14‭ ‬souls of varying personalities,‭ ‬genders,‭ ‬ages and temperaments.

Emceeing the evening is‭ ‬a Pakistani smoothie named Mohammed Ali‭ ‬--‭ ‬no jokes,‭ ‬please,‭ ‬he‭’‬s heard them all already‭ ‬--‭ ‬who shuttles on and off,‭ ‬as do immigrants from Jamaica,‭ ‬Vietnam,‭ ‬Mexico and China,‭ ‬each grappling with the American experience in free,‭ ‬or at least somewhat liberated,‭ ‬verse.‭ ‬If after a while,‭ ‬we are more engaged by Stephens‭’‬ chameleon act than the content of Jones‭’‬ script,‭ ‬that does not make‭ ‬Bridge and Tunnel any less entertaining. – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

BRIDGE AND TUNNEL,‭ ‬Women’s Theatre Project,‭ ‬Sixth St.‭ ‬Studio,‭ ‬505‭ ‬N.W.‭ ‬1st Ave.,‭ ‬Fort Lauderdale.‭ ‬Through Nov.‭ ‬7.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$25.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬866‭) ‬811-4111.

***

Shane Blanford in Cabaret.

Cabaret
(Entr‭’‬acte Theatrix at the Caldwell‭; ‬through Oct.‭ ‬24‭)

The good thing about presenting‭ ‬Cabaret,‭ ‬the second production from Entr‭’‬Acte Theatrix,‭ ‬the professional offshoot of Palm Beach Principal Players,‭ ‬is that the performers at the Kit Kat Club are really not supposed to be very talented.‭ ‬Director-choreographer Kimberly Dawn Smith may have taken that notion to the extreme,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬or perhaps she truly does have a talent-challenged cast.

That is how it seems at the Caldwell Theatre,‭ ‬where Smith is closely adhering to the staging of the‭ ‬1998‭ ‬revival of the John Kander-Fred Ebb musical set in pre-Nazi Berlin.‭ ‬As the Emcee,‭ ‬Shane Blanford has an apt edge of smarmy menace,‭ ‬but every exaggerated line delivery is a blatant copy of Alan Cumming‭’‬s Tony-winning performance.‭ ‬At least he manages a good fascimile,‭ ‬whereas Leah Sessa‭’‬s Sally Bowles is simply shrill and screechy,‭ ‬and she apparently has no clue about the subtext of the title number.

Better is Ryan Michael Owens,‭ ‬whose instinct is to underplay as Cliff Bradshaw,‭ ‬the American would-be novelist who has his‭ ‬eyes opened by the increasingly evident signs of the coming world war.‭ ‬The very capable band elevated above the stage accompanies a mix of songs from the various stage productions and the Bob Fosse film,‭ ‬but this‭ ‬Cabaret lacks the impact of the group‭’‬s earlier‭ ‬Hair.‭ ‬

Sometimes,‭ ‬to answer the question in the title song,‭ ‬it is better to sit alone in your room. – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

CABARET,‭Entr’Acte Theatrix at the Caldwell Theatre,‭ ‬7901‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Federal Highway,‭ ‬Boca Raton.‭ ‬Through Oct.‭ ‬24.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$25-$30.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬561‭) ‬241-7432.

***

Alexa Capiello and Noah Levine in The Rocky Horror Show.

The Rocky Horror Show
(Slow Burn Theatre Company‭; ‬through Oct.‭ ‬30‭)

Boca Raton‭’‬s Slow Burn Theatre Company,‭ ‬now beginning its second season,‭ ‬prides itself on producing musicals with a dark edginess.‭ ‬But that is exactly the quality that is missing from its take on‭ ‬The Rocky Horror Show.

Rocky is,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬the spoof of B-level horror films mixed with an allegory of sexual liberation,‭ ‬but ever since the show gained cult status‭ ‬--‭ ‬and audience interaction‭ ‬--‭ ‬from its‭ ‬1975‭ ‬movie version,‭ ‬it has been hard to wrest it from its parody mode.

Still,‭ ‬the production begins very promisingly with the opening number,‭ ‬Science Fiction Double Feature,‭ ‬sung with gusto by Renata Eastlick,‭ ‬who later returns as castle minion Magenta and steals most of the scenes she is in.‭ ‬We should,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬care more than we do about fish-out-of-water fiancees Brad and Janet,‭ ‬who have their values and more manipulated by Dr.‭ ‬Frank‭ ‬‘N‭’‬ Furter.‭ ‬Noah Levine and Alexa Capiello are fine in the early going,‭ ‬but we need to see more of a transition eventually beyond Rick Pena‭’‬s nicely abbreviated costumes.

Larry Buzzeo‭ (‬Frank‭) ‬fills out a bustier and fishnet stockings well enough,‭ ‬but misses much of the character‭’‬s menace.‭ ‬Director Patrick Fitzwater was clearly trying to get beyond the image of the movie‭’‬s Tim Curry,‭ ‬which is commendable,‭ ‬but trading him in for a Charles Busch-type doesn‭’‬t really cut it.‭

Slow Burn encourages Rocky Horror groupies and their audience shout-outs,‭ ‬but by opening night,‭ ‬the cast seemed a bit unnerved by the interruptions.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬if you go,‭ ‬check out the midnight show on Saturday night. – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW,‭ ‬Slow Burn Theatre Co.,‭ ‬at West Boca Community High School,‭ ‬12811‭ ‬West Glades‭ ‬Road,‭ ‬Boca Raton.‭ ‬Through Saturday,‭ ‬Oct.‭ ‬30.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$30.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬866‭) ‬811-4111.

***

Zero Hour
(Maltz Jupiter Theatre‭; ‬through Oct.‭ ‬24‭)

If you had a hit show running off-Broadway,‭ ‬how would you spend your two-week vacation‭? ‬If you are actor-writer Jim Brochu,‭ ‬who has toiled for decades and suddenly become hailed as an overnight success for his one-man show‭ ‬Zero Hour,‭ ‬you fly to Florida and perform the show some more.

This is the second time around for this very entertaining biographical sketch of actor-comedian-painter-blacklist victim Zero Mostel.‭ ‬Brochu brought the show to the Broward Stage Door in‭ ‬2008‭ ‬as he inched his way to New York,‭ ‬winning a Carbonell Award for his uncanny,‭ ‬high-energy performance.‭ ‬Zero Hour has the usual artificiality of solo shows,‭ ‬but Brochu more than compensates with his larger-than-life,‭ ‬force-of-nature presence.

The premise for this walk through Mostel’s life and career is that a naïve,‭ ‬unseen‭ ‬New York Times reporter has come to Mostel’s modest art studio‭ ‬--‭ ‬his refuge from the world‭ ‬--‭ ‬to interview him.‭ ‬Mostel obliges in his fashion,‭ ‬alternately pouring on the charm to the young man and making him the target of his volcanic anger.

Along the way,‭ ‬we hear some of Mostel’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee,‭ ‬his feud and eventual détente with director-choreographer Jerome Robbins and the crippling collision with a city bus that almost led to the amputation of Mostel’s leg.‭ ‬But even as he relates these dark events,‭ ‬Mostel cannot restrain himself from tossing in quips and mugging to his one-man audience.‭ ‬Fortunately,‭ ‬he lets the rest of us eavesdrop.‭ – ‬H.‭ ‬Erstein

ZERO HOUR,‭ ‬Maltz Jupiter Theatre,‭ ‬1001‭ ‬E.‭ ‬Indiantown Road,‭ ‬Jupiter.‭ ‬Through Oct.‭ ‬24.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$23‭ (‬subscribers‭)‬,‭ ‬$29‭ (‬non-subscribers‭)‬.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬561‭) ‬575-2223.‭

1 comment:

C.L.J. said...

Sharing a single review with friends is impossible when you cram them senselessly together like this.

Yuck.

I won't link mass reviews, too messy. Sorry.