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October 28 - November 13,
Reviewed October 28
Running time 2:30 - one intermission
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Director Zina T. Bleck and her team approach
this new version of the classic horror thriller as something of a Halloween
lark, apparently having great fun in the mounting of the show, the cavorting
in horror costumes and makeup and pulling some of the stunts of a seasonal
haunted house ride. While there's nothing wrong with a production team
having fun, it appears they may have lost sight of the goal of giving the
audience rather than the participants a pleasurable experience. In this
instance, it appeared that the cast and crew were having more fun than the
audience as the familiar tale unfolded. The notable exception was the
performance of Mary-Anne Sullivan in the role of the count's certifiably mad
henchman, Renfield. Her manic, over-the-top turn was a standout, especially
the opening narration. However, in the final scene she was placed too far
upstage for her voice to carry to the full audience.
Storyline: Transylvanian vampire, Count Dracula, travels to London in search
of new blood, while his nemesis, Van Helsing, enlists the aid of the Count's
new accountant and the accountant's fiancé in an effort to bring an end to
the undead once and for all.
Castaways is working from a new text. It is not the script that has thrice
been mounted on Broadway since its debut in 1927 which is still well
remembered for its revival with Frank Langella in the title role. It is also
not the musical version which has just opened to poor reviews (click
here to read our review). This new script is taken, as the others were,
from Bram Stokers' 1897 novel from which so much of the current genre of
horror story stems. It is by Steven Dietz whose
Private Eyes is currently playing at
the Church Street Playhouse in a production of the Journeymen Theatre
Ensemble. It is difficult to assess this new script from the performances in
this production but it appears to have less of the difficulties of plot
points either insufficiently established or left unresolved than does the
new version on Broadway.
Krista Poole and Alexia Poe are both
attractive and effervescent subjects of the vampire's bloodlust, especially
in the early scenes before they come under the spell of supernatural powers.
Bill Byrnes makes about as much as possible out of the character of Van
Helsing, but it never became clear where his expertise in things vampiric
came from or just what a vampire-hunter does when not explaining the arcane
details of garlic, stakes and mirrors to attentive gentle folk and, through
them, the audience.
Doug Nelson has the role of the fanged
menace. The role may not be written with much depth or complexity but Nelson
plays it entirely as a cartoon, which robs the character of any sympathetic
aspects. Without these, the entire story becomes one not of unrequited (and
unrequitable) love, or even uncontrollable lust, but of danger and mayhem
fitting for Halloween revels but lacking as a theatrical presentation.
Written by Seven Dietz. Directed by Zina T.
Bleck. Design: Tom Hannon, Tom Galloway and Ryan Johnston (set) Mary-Anne
Sullivan (costumes, make-up, hair and photography) Debbie Lunceford
(properties) Ryan Johnston (lights) Lynn Lacey (sound) Stephanie
Souders (stage manager). Cast: Bill Byrnes, Nathan Clark, Britt Fucito,
Harry Kantrovich, Cathlyn Macaulay, Jo Murray, Doug Nelson, Alexia Poe,
Krista Poole, Adrienne Schowker, Mary-Anne Sullivan, Juli Tarabek.
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January 10 - 31, 2003
The Eighth Order
Reviewed January 31
Running time2 hours 20 minutes
Sometimes what is going on off stage has a great impact on what is going on
in a performance. On this night every mind was concentrated not so much on
the play as on the human drama of the theater company. The production of
this human-interest drama was enhanced by the real-life human-interest drama
as this was to be the final performance by co-star Brad Minus before
reporting for active duty in the Middle East. In fact, the run is ending prematurely as he must report the next day.
Still, the entire company performed at a high level of professionalism even
if they weren’t being paid for this community theater activity. The curtain
call was marked by tears but the performances were strictly of the “the show
must go on” caliber.
Storyline: In mid-depression middle-America, a single mother of two
struggles with both her daughter’s engagement to an older man whose lack of
prospects appall her and her son’s increasing withdrawal from the world and
into a religious fascination. The mother has suppressed her own memories of
the details of the boy’s father’s own religious background in the story of
how she had to have him committed to an institution and raise the children
herself. She is forced to confront the impact of the prediction of the past
that her son would speak with an angel and have the power to heal.
wasn’t the only effective performer in the first rate cast. Kimberly A.
Gowland embodied embittered disillusion as the mother. Standout supporting
performances came from Jennifer Reitz and Scott Olson as Minus’ sister and
her older, unsuitable suitor. But the drama of the fact that this was Minus’
final performance before departure kept the focus on him and he did very
well, especially in the revelation scene which opens the second act. Here he
related his vision to his mother and sister, saying that the angel that
appeared before him addressed him by a name he didn’t recognize. His mother
and sister are the only two people who knew that his father had given him
that name at birth but the mother had suppressed it. They are thus convinced
that something other than hysterical wish-fulfillment is involved in the
revelation. The scene’s spell is enhanced by Lynn Lacey’s tasteful and
subtle sound design, using underscoring for the first half of the scene to
set the tone but fading it out to allow Minus to carry the spell forward.
play itself is extremely well structured, telling its fairly simple story
straight out with little embellishment or confusing excursions into subplots
or side stories. It could, therefore, become dull and seem a kind of
paint-by-the-numbers dramatic construction. Not under Director Mary-Anne
Sullivan’s guidance. She found ways to smooth over the at times awkward
transitions between significant plot points to give the evening some variety
while keeping the focus right where it should be -- on the story. Only the
scene breaks seemed to drag on excessively.
Sullivan is also responsible for a distinctive set design. The 1930’s
middle-class home is represented primarily by the traditional flats so
ubiquitous in community theater with door openings as dictated by the
staging and decorated with appropriate framed pictures and wall hangings and
provided with the requisite chairs, tables and a couch. Sullivan makes much
more of it in two ways. First she brings out front the crossbars that
frequently support such a structure from behind and connects them to a
pillar center-stage, creating a structure suggestive of Christian crosses
which actually throws subtle cross-like shadows to reinforce the theme of
the show. Then, sharing set-painting credit with Thomas J. Sullivan III, she
uses a sponge painting technique on those flats that concentrates the depth
of color center-stage, drawing the eye toward the cross structure. Subtle
but very effective. There was an announcement prior to the show that the
lighting system had suffered a malfunction and that the lighting design
would not be able to be executed as planned. As it was, however, the
lighting for the performance was more than adequate, actually working much
better than many found in small professional houses.
Written by Nancy Kiefer.
Directed by Mary-Anne Sullivan. Design: Mary-Anne Sullivan (set) Amy Grebe
(costumes) Jo Murray (properties) Jeff Kumanga (lights) Lynn Lacey (sound)
Allen Lebowitz (photography). Cast: Kimberley A. Gowland, Brad Minus, Scott
Olson, Jennifer Reitz, Mary Brick, Rose Declercq.
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October 26 - November 17, 2001
Reviewed November 16
Running Time 2 hours 5 minutes
The plays William Inge wrote in the 1950s like Picnic and Come
Back Little Sheba all dealt with a view of sexuality that seems somehow
quaint and almost innocent in these more libidinous times. Bus Stop
is no exception, but it has the benefit of a pair of leading roles that have
stories that go beyond their physical relationship and a few well-developed
supporting characters. The Castaways production emphasizes those strengths
but doesn’t generate much heat in the sexual attractions between three
couples out of the cast of eight.
Storyline: A snowstorm strands a bus
for the night at a small town café in Kansas. Its passengers include a night
club singer who claims to be being abducted by a cowboy, the cowboy in
question and his sidekick, and an elderly former professor with a taste for
alcohol in this dry state. The bus driver has an eye for the café’s owner
while the professor makes overtures to the younger waitress. The town’s
sheriff keeps order.
Shannon Benton, a veteran of community theaters throughout northern
Virginia, does some of her best work to date as the night club singer. She
builds her character as a decent kid with a past in the way it was written
rather than trying to recreate the more comic take on it that Marilyn Monroe
gave it for the movie version. She’s nicely vulnerable but still has enough
inner strength to make her independence believable. The small "if looks
could kill" glance she gives the cowboy at the end of a short song in Act II
is a revealing flash of self-reliance.
Alex Kozushin as the cowboy has a rougher time because it is his part
that seems most dated half a century after the play was written. He’s got
the individual elements down but can’t resolve the conflict between the
strutting braggart of the rodeo cowboy portion of his character and the
nearly virginal ranch owner he is revealed to be. Mary-Anne Sullivan is
marvelously down-to-earth the as the café owner and Brian Miller is
effective as the sheriff. Tom Flatt is solid in support as the sidekick but
gives his cute knowing glance just a bit too often.
Castaways mounts a solid visual production. Costumes by Jo Murray and Amy
M. Grebe are just right for a busload in the 1950’s and Jay Burdick designed
a solidly realistic set. The snow effect out the café’s window is striking
even though the snow seems impervious to the wind described in the dialogue
and howling in Lynn Lacey’s sound effects.
Written by William Inge. Directed by Terri L. Caretti. Designers: Jay
Burdick (set) Brad Minus (Lights) Lynn Lacey (Sound) Jo Murray and Amy M.
Grebe (Costumes) Lisa M. Johston (Effects.) Cast: Shannon Benton, Alex
Kozushin, Mary-Anne Sullivan, Tom Flatt, Brian Miller, Jim Howard, Tim
Hattwick, Jennifer Reitz.