Review: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

I got three things to say about last night production of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” at Newark’s Chapel Street Player, on well … Chapel street.

Directing. You can’t see it, but I am standing in front of my computer, clapping. Bravo Brian Touchette and Susan Boudreaux. Just beautiful. You said you’ve been wanting to direct this play for more than four years; I can only guess it’s been etching at the back of your mind just as long. Your retelling of the archetypal Christ story was superb (I won’t get into a whole archetypal criticism discussion, but just know Mr. Touchette and Ms. Boudreaux get it). The pacing was excellent and the production consistently interesting.

Set Design. According to the program, Mr. Touchette also designed the set. Oh man. Oh man. Oh man. I’m flat out of superlatives. I am clapping so loud; my poor Dachshund is howling from all the noise; it is 0612 Sunday morning. The set is superb. It is a standalone work of art. Mr. Touchette and Ms. Boudreaux’s use of vertical space by putting the nurse’s station physically aloft from the patient area helped create a sense of isolation for both the nursing staff and patients. The set itself was actually a member of the cast.

Tech. tech, tech. The tech was simply great. Shout out to everyone. From Set decoration and effects to the paintitechng of the floor and everything in between It was boffo. The tech design and execution had the effect of deepening the overall story and creating an ambience that complemented the story, set design, and subtext. These are the artists responsible for the great tech.

I guess that’s it. Oh, the acting was the usual Chapel Street high standard. It was excellent. I won’t go into any great detail about who did what, because well, that’s not what I want to write about this time and I’m running out of gas.
With that being said, I have to confess admiration for Andre Wilkins – I love watching him act. He does so many things well. His physical schtick is always a blast.
castHere is the cast. Each was great.

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Units of Love: A Cancer Journey — Director’s Notes #2

Wednesday night I had dinner at Iron Hill Brewery with Lyn Anderson who is either my co-director or assistant director, or something like that, and with Kate Potter my property mistress. Anyway, we began some preliminary drinking er, ah, thinking, that’s right thinking about things we want to accomplish before the word premier on Aril 12th.

The first thing we need to do is run the script through another edit (or two). There are a couple of changes I want to make to heighten suspense and get it a little tighter.

I have been wrestling with realism or austere. When I saw Erin Miller’s use of space in her version of Romeo and Juliet, I became more convinced that less may be better. I still have to figure that out. I’ll be relying on Lyn a lot for this as she has an intuitive excellence in that regard.

I am envisioning a bright white stage.

WE talked about getting sponsors. I’m  thinking about asking Christiana Care, Helen F. Graham, LLS, and the American Cancer Society for help.

That’s it for now.

Romeo and Juliet Redux

Okay, those of you who’ve read my reviews before, know I usually have to go back and fix something that a reader pointed out, The good news is I have a reader.
Anyway, this reader reminded me – and his name was not Kevin Meinhaldt – that tech played a great part in the success of the Reedy Point Players production of Romeo and Juliet. He (or maybe she) was right.
The tech and lights were executive flawlessly by Mr. Meinhaldt, Jacob Hunter, and Fran Lazartic. The sounds and lights to replicate gunshots were perfect while the dubbing of a radio broadcast to update the audience was a stroke of genius. The lighting choices were really enhanced the story telling
Bravo All.

Reedy Point Romeo and Juliet

I got something to say … about Romeo and Juliet put on by the Reedy Point Players – I saw it last night and it was pretty darn good – well  worth your entertainment dollar. I’m going to see it again next Friday – really, I am.

If you’ve read my notes before, you know that I tend to not mention a whole lot of names, but rather focus on pone or two aspects of a production. With that said – Erin Miller.

I hadn’t seen Erin in a year or two, so I was glad to see her back at Reedy Player. This time though it was as a director. Her courageous direction of the Shakespeare classic captivated me.  

She is very clever.

She used an incredibly austere set that really worked. The center of it was empty with the majority of the action taking place in that space. She built two, three feet high platforms with railings and placed them up stage left and right with a smaller platform (about 6 inches in the center to connect the two). While it work great for all the classic Romeo and Juliet lines; it wowed as the mausoleum. Just wowed – Artistic Austere and Creepy.

The set had the effect of a West Side Story kind of vibe.

The West Side Story vibe, hmm; funny I should mention that because Erin’s version takes place in New York.

Another courageous choice she made was tinkering with the script and the setting. She and Kevin Austra (who also played the ill-fated Mercutio) updated sections. They added hand guns instead of swords, introduced cell phones, and threw in some radio broadcasts for good measure.  I won’t tell you much more because it’ll ruin the surprise. But it really worked well – I mean really.

All this had the effect (or is affect, I always get those two confused) of pulling the audience in and at the same time, clarifying points.

A couple of shout outs.

Gina Velardi – A great Juliet. She was determined, naïve, and appropriately tragic. She made you really care about her.

Kevin Austra – An enormous presence on the stage. His timing is wonderful, and his motions forced you t focus.

Ruth Brittain – I had never seen her before last night. But, man, she can act.

The last time I saw Patrick Ruesgegger was in the film “The Reprogramming Of Jeremy,” he did his usual great job, and his diction was superb.

Gunnar Funk – I had never seen Gunnar Funk before, but really enjoyed his Romeo. His death scene was first rate.

Gail Wagner – Was her usual superb self. I love watching her.

I’ve gone this far so I should probably mention everyone.

Matthew Lovlie – Okay Mr. Lovely is another one I love to watch; he gets it. Great job.

Jeff Fentrees – I had never seen Jeff before either, but his explanation of the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt was great.

Max O’Neil – I had never seen him before either, but man, if his goal was to come off as hot head, it worked. You know those people who are just and they are going to go off, you don’t when, but it’s going to happen? He did that great with Tybalt. Loved it!

Sam Vernooy – Sam had a hard job as Paris. That’s a more difficult role than you think. Paris wants to love Juliet, but he has no chance. She barely knows he is alive after Romeo shows up. He did it very well. And he died great!

Sam Dressler – He was great. As the omnipresent whipping boy, his timing was excellent, Thing about Sam is he always remembers his lines.

Lisa Coruzzi – I love listening to Ms. Coruzzi. She has a tenor in her voice that captivates when on stage. I wish the mayor had more line. Anyway, she was a gem.

Ken Guerino – In his first show at Reedy Point, Mr. Guerino held his own with all the vets. He knew his lines, hit his marks, and most importantly, enunciated wonderfully.

Lisa Velardi – I wish I could have heard more from her. She’s a good actor, but I didn’t see enough of her. What I saw, I liked.

MVP Award – Mother and daughter team of Jeanne and Kate Jerzak walloped it as the stage crew. Everything showed up and left the stage on time. BRAVO!

I guess that’s it. If I forgot anything or anyone, it’s because I’m an idiot!. It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s coming.

In late April 2019 the Reedy Point Players in Delaware City, Delaware will host the premier of an original work, “Units of Love: A Cancer Journey.”
The play is written by Bill Potter and based on his eBook “The Long Walk: From Lymphoma to Survival- A Journal.”
“Units of love is a different kind of cancer story,” Mr. Potter said. “I don’t want to give too much away, but you will see cancer fought from the inside out – and that’s all that I’m saying.”
The play, conceived and nurtured at the Chapel Street Players NEXT playwriting program, took almost six years to complete, which included a staged reading about five years ago.
“The staged reading was great,” Mr. Potter said. “It really helped me iron out some rough spots.”
The show is prefect for anyone who as ever fought cancer, a caregiver who slogged through the fight, the nurses who spell the difference between life and death, and the doctors who never lose sight of the big picture, Mr. Potter said.
“The one thing I learned is that you get cancer alone, but you treat it as a community,” he said.
Mr. Potter plans to keep a day-by-day blog as he prepares the show.

Reprogramming of Jeremy: My notes

jeremyHmmmm.

I guess it’s a bit journalistic integrity that pushes me to review the Gail Wagner directed Reprogramming of Jeremy, which made its Delaware premier last night (9 August 2108) at Theater N in Wilmington, Delaware.
It’s kind of weird because Gail is a friend of mine and all I really have to say are good things, so it seems like I am being easy on her. I’m not really.
First let’s start with some technical things. The lighting and sound were first rate. Unlike so many lower budget local films, Reprogramming of Jeremy had excellent sound and lightning. This was key because the subject matter – youth coming of age homosexuality – could be discounted if the technical stuff was cheesy.
This wasn’t.
Gail’s choice to cut between characters in the film as they told their individual stories relative to Jeremy, was risky as this type of film-making can sometimes cause loss of momentum and defeat the intended dramatic arc. That wasn’t the case here. Ms. Wagner was able to build tension and anxiety.
Though I never read Bobby Keniston’s Play of the same title, which inspired the film, the story moved forward at a good pace. Mr. Keniston made some interesting choices concerning characters being honest with themselves and us.
That part of the film was especially interesting. You couldn’t trust the multiple narrators as each had their own rationalizations about their relationships and interactions with Jeremy. Each had their own guilt, and each had their own fingerprints on the eventual end.
That which goes unsaid in this film is often more powerful, than that which is said; much of the film captures the energy of more is less.
At this point I want to shout out to Gina Olkowski. She is a chameleon and seemingly inhabited her role from first descriptive loving hug to violent momma grizzly when her son was in danger. Everyone was wonderful, but Gina’s portrayal really pulled me in.
Another shout out to Emily Ciuffettelli who played Abby (Jeremy’s best female friend – not girlfriend). Her portrayal of Abby was so sincere and vulnerable, I felt she was one of the few characters in the film with whom I would like to have coffee.
Finally, Marsha Amato Greenspan was appropriately dastardly and evil as the Christian running a gay reprogramming camp. Bravo!
And that brings me to my unfulfilled expectation. The director and script dedicated a lot of time to the life that led to Jeremy’s incarceration at the camp. I only wish more time had been spent here and how it all impacted the films finale.
The Reprogramming of Jeremy is an important film and people should take time and see it. I’m not sure how, or even if, it will be distributed. The thing is, the world is crazy and art like this gives us a grounding – or at least a caution of what we’ve won and what we could lose.

Murder on Cue — Great Cast Work

Somebody asked me to review “Murder On Cue” this year’s fund raiser for Newark’ Del. Chapel Street Players, playing this weekend and next. For more info go to http://chapelstreetplayers.org/.
Anyway.
The cast is so huge I won’t be able to mention everyone; they were all wonderful.
The show starts out, it seems, as an homage to the 1976 Neil Simon comedy “Murder by Death” and the longtime favorite board game Clue. I could be wrong, but it sure felt that way.
There’s the deaf housekeeper, the nun with a vow of silence, the beauty queen, and the usual suspects in any mystery spoof. It was actually quite effective. This campy tribute goes on for about 15 minutes.
That’s where things change.
Scott F. Mason, the Writer and director of “Murder on Cue,” is shot. The house lights come up and an investigation of the entire cast, crew, and house staff begins under the watchful eye of FBI Agent Sawinski played with pitch perfection by Andre Wilkins.
I knew he was a good actor, but his performance last night cemented him as a great leading man kind of guy.
A plug for Nicole Pierce. She has a certain indescribable vibe (or presence) that I just love; she was her usual superb self this particular evening. Will someone please put her in a leading role!? Jeepers.
Back to the show.
I don’t know if I had ever seen Courtney Lynahan before, but I really liked her as the vow of silence nun and the pilfering cast member (oops don’t want to give too much away).
I can’t go any further without mentioning five of my favorites in the CSP stable of stars. I just love Michelle Cullen, Judy David, Peter Kuo (who is hilarious btw), Michelle Opaleski, and Brian M. Touchette. Each one was superb and acted with great skill. They heightened the tomfoolery and suspense. Bravo!!
As I said in previous reviews – I love Susan Boudreax and Susie Moak. They knock my socks off.
I had never seen Ann Matthews act Before, but she too, was a delightful surprise. She appeared with her husband of 33 years Pete Matthews. I had never seen him act either. Whenever I see him he has a hammer in his hand; this time he had a cigar. Regardless of hand tool, he did an excellent job.
Remember the gloriously evil bad guy in CSP’s production of 1984? That was Zack Jackson. In this show, he played a hilarious loudmouth plumber and then himself as the show progressed. BTW, he has one of my favorite actor skills – he makes great faces.
I’ll tell you who doesn’t get enough credit around here — Heather McCarty. She is a blast to watch and also makes great faces. I always see her doing something interesting down stage left. Isn’t that weird?
Renee G. O’leary celebrated her 55th consecutive fund raiser. She was delightful as Boddy and took a second to show off her great legs to audience.
Danielle Jackomin played bestselling murder mystery novelist LC. She is always fun to watch. Pay attention to her last couple of minutes on stage, those are pretty special.
I don’t know who Darin Bishop is. I think he got swallowed up in the crowd of actors after the shooting of Mr. Mason. He is listed as the EMT in the program, so maybe I had a bad seat and just couldn’t see him.
The last time I saw Patricia Lake was last Spring when she appeared in Holy Traffic. She was delightful.
I really enjoyed Matthew Brown’s performance of Newark policeman Bernhart. It had an honesty and naivety that was really refreshing when juxtaposed to the snarky witness interviews of Mr. Mason’s shooting/murder.

Walt Osborne played Major General Cleopold Poupon and was especially good throughout the sho0,w but really shined in the first few minutes with a small dance bit that got entire audience clapping.
I guess that’s it. Not a whole lot more to say. There is a bunch of people acting and you’ll like them. The show and the cause (CSP Fund Raiser) are a good place to spend your entertainment dollar. So go see it.