Archive for November 2019

Profoundly Moving CHESTER BAILEY at Contemporary American Theater Festival

Dougherty unspools the stories of Chester and Dr. Cotton, his treating physician, with novelistic skill. The feeling of truly being in the World War II period never lifts. The stories reel us in: Chester’s of the way he deals with his injury, and Cotton’s of hospital life in wartime, with its politics, scandals, and sexual misbehavior. This show is the whole package: a polished, intriguing, thematically-consistent but otherwise dissimilar pair of stories well-told, leaving one profoundly moved.

Patriarchy Run Rampant: A WELCOME GUEST at Contemporary American Theater Festival

Then the government, represented by its functionary Lucius (Michael Rogers), brings in Shimeus (Wade McCollum), a derelict of another sort, whimpering and traumatized by an arson that killed everyone else in his family. Lucius orders the Browns to harbor Shimeus as a guest. Almost immediately, however, Shimeus stops whimpering, and, more importantly, stops behaving like a guest, and more like an invader – well maybe not a declared invader but a lot like a space alien whose intentions toward neighbors aren’t entirely clear but don’t seem encouraging, a la the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

You’ll Laugh, You’ll Shiver: WRECKED at Contemporary American Theater Festival

It’s an old trick, but a good one: Set two contrasting dramatic tones (usually domestic comedy and dread) against each other and let them fight it out throughout a play. It’s the trick playwright Greg Kalleres employs to advantage in Wrecked,

MY LORD, WHAT A NIGHT! at Contemporary American Theater Festival: Clashing Views on Resisting Racism

The drama works because of the intriguing way the characters’ ideas about how to act in response to Marian Anderson’s two provocative exclusions (first from Nassau Inn and then from Constitution Hall) shift repeatedly in response to new information, so that consensus is almost impossible to achieve, at least until the play’s very end. Anderson seeks progress through song, unimpeachable behavior and an avoidance of politics; Albert Einstein wants an end to both racism and antisemitism, and by the end is very worried about the Bomb; Mary Church Terrell embraces confrontation because all else seems to fail; and Abraham Flexner tries hard to protect the Institute as a means of keeping the Holocaust from consuming absolutely all Jews, even though he can save only a few.

Brooklyn Is In Him: ANTONIO’S SONG at Contemporary American Theater Festival

And now of course we are into the story of Antonio’s family of origin, and the world of his origin, which has conditioned him to behave this way, which implicitly and explicitly looks to its men to solve problems with violence.

Necessity and Realism Prevail Along with Enchantment in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

Berowne gloomily foresees: “Necessity will make us all forsworn Three thousand times within this three year’s space.” And by “necessity” we can be sure he means not simply the logistical necessity of dealing with women but what we might call Jurassic Park Necessity: Life finds a way. As Shakespeare himself wrote in a similar context: “The world must be peopled.” And for peopling, you need relations between the sexes.

Topical and Mostly Sure-Footed Rendering Of ARTURO UI from Scena

A thinly-disguised parable of the ascendancy of Adolf Hitler, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui may have been written in 1941, but it may as well have been addressed directly to Americans of 2019.

The Songs May Not Stick, But the Happiness Will in Iron Crow’s Production of A NEW BRAIN

The strange thing about this lyrical cornucopia: it doesn’t stick in the mind much as one departs. There is a deliberate effort to craft just such a song, ‘I Feel So Much Spring,’ as the closer, and it feels and sounds good, but by the time the song finishes, there have been so many harmonic variations sung by the various characters that the core melody has largely been overwritten mentally. What will not be overwritten is the joyous feeling that the song, and the ending, bring about.

DISASTER! Slays at Cockpit In Court

Disaster! lovingly pokes fun at two staples of 1970s popular culture: disaster movies like Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure and the disco-heavy pop music of the era. Whether to go is not going to present any great dilemmas. This is a perfect summer evening’s smart-alecky entertainment.