Friday, June 18, 2010

June 18, 2010

Brigadoon’ needs a few more rehearsals
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — Sometimes when I write a review of a show that just isn’t ‘up to snuff,’ I hear that it really came together at the end of its run and that I should have reviewed it then.

My constant comment is that I write about what I see, when I see it. That’s only fair to those who lay out money to be entertained.

I expect the opportunity for me to hear that it “really came together” will present itself often, as there is much room for improvement in “Brigadoon,” the opening of summer offering at Straw Hat Theatre on the grounds of the Ashtabula Arts Center.

The first word that popped into my head as the show opened was ‘hesitant’, a signal to me that at least another week of rehearsals — or two — would be in order. When the second act began at 9:55 p.m., I was certain that I could also use the term ‘slow’ in my description of the play.

The cast members did not exude confidence as they sang and danced on the limiting Straw Hat Theatre stage; there was, however, evidence of concentration in trying to get it right.

Vocally, the entire cast could have used a bit more coaching. There were flat notes and screeching notes and notes that were out of range of the vocalists. A change from one octave to another in the middle of a phrase indicates a misplaced singer.

Judging from the array of colorful clan kilts on stage, it is safe to assume that some research had been done when assembling the costumes. I suggest that perhaps a wee bit of washing and ironing might have helped their appearance.

The orchestra for Brigadoon was one of the show’s bright spots. However, when considering the l-e-n-g-t-h of the production, someone should have taken the initiative to eliminate some of the second act opening music.

No one knows why audiences go to see plays. I suspect that word of mouth is the biggest seller. There is much work to be done with this show before it finishes its run. I hope it does come together; I hope word of mouth fills the tent.

Brigadoon continues tonight, Saturday and Sunday, and next week on Thursday, June 24 and 25. Curtain time each evening is 8. Tickets may be reserved by phoning the Ashtabula Arts Center at 964-3396.
June 11, 2010

Catch ‘On Golden Pond’ while you can
Star Beacon

MADISON — The summer theater season and the midges along the lake in northeast Ohio have both arrived at about the same time.

Though their appearances are annual calendar events, one might just be a bit suspect of Rabbit Run Theater and its role in these two summer happenings.

“On Golden Pond” is the opening production at Rabbit Run Theater. Set in one of the few remaining barn venues in Ohio, this show is lent an air of the rustic by its theatrical surroundings.

Though there are many subliminal messages to be discerned as we watch the principal characters on stage deal with aging, distant children and a memory that sometimes doesn’t function as it once did, the show is also a slice of life that we can all hope for. It is a fun script that is acted by talented, seasoned actors.

The passing of time on Golden Pond is measured by the kinds of flying creatures that try to invade the cottage via the sometimes attached, sometimes falling down screen door.

In the first act, Norman Thayer (Joe Petrolia) is obviously resigned to a slowing down of life because there is nothing new or exciting for him to do. His wife, Ethel Thayer, (Patty Page) is still vibrant and happy for the berry picking and the loons and the views of the pond. Their relationship is one that has spanned decades. Petrolia and Page do outstanding jobs in the portrayals of their characters, each one depicting personal idiosyncrasies that are endearing.

The audience is introduced to Charlie, the mailman (Larry Gasch) who not only brings letters and cards, but shares the local news as he makes his rounds. Through conversations among Norman, Ethel and Charlie, the audience discovers Charlie’s longtime crush on Chelsea, the daughter of the Thayers, who lives in California. She is coming for a visit. Gasch makes everyone believe his seriousness for his job and his feelings for Chelsea.

Enter Chelsea (Kitty O’Shea) who calls her mother “mother” but refers to her father as “Norman.” Those names reveal the relationship Chelsea has with each parent. Accompanying Chelsea on her stopover visit are Bill Ray (Tom Milligan) and Bill Ray, Jr. (Zachary Janouskovec).

Chelsea and Bill Ray are headed to Europe for a month, and they ask if his son, Bill Ray Jr,. could stay with the Thayers for the duration of the summer. O’Shea, Milligan, and Janouskovec all are convincing and delightfully charming in the character bodies they inhabit.

In a not unusual manner, the first act readies the audience for what is to follow; the groundwork is laid. The stage is now set for the second act of the play and the second act of life for Norman Thayer, as Billy Ray, Jr. offers purpose and rejuvenation. The cottage, Norman, Ethel, the moths and the loons all come alive as the show heads for the final curtain.

This entire cast is professional and well-rehearsed. Stephen Rhodes did an excellent job in casting as well as directing. The set is believable — even livable. All of the parts that go into making a good show are present in “On Golden Pond.” Sadly, this production is up and running tonight and Saturday night only; its run was scheduled for just two weeks. A call to the box office at 428-7092 will tell if there are tickets still available for this summer’s outstanding first production.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Way of Life

St. Francis reminds us to “Keep a clear eye toward life’s end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s Creature. What you are in His sight is what you are and nothing more. Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing you have received … but only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lost in Yonkers

After this review appeared in the Ashtabula Star Beacon, I received a phone call from the marketing director at The Cleveland Play House informing me that I had been quoted in the New York Times (imagine that!) for the same show that had moved to the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey. I'll try to post the ad.

January 20, 2010

‘Lost in Yonkers’ keeps them laughing


CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Play House audiences are being treated to yet another smash hit.
Neil Simon’s “‘Lost in Yonkers” is wowing patrons at the East 85th Street theater and those patrons are responding with spontaneous laughter — a good sign that the show is well-received. Armed with a cast loaded with talent from top to bottom and a sure fire playwright’s script, there can’t be anything but success on the stage.
Actors young and old with resumes that boast experience from around the country set about to entertain, and entertain they do.
The young boys in the play (Maxwell Beer as Arty and Alex Wyse as Jay) are the spigots through which the comedy begins to flood the stage. Their aunt Bella, played by Sara Surrey, is a comic-tragic figure who wraps her fingers around the hearts of everyone in the theater but her mother.
Rosemary Prinz as Grandma Kurnitz to the boys and mother to Bella is staid and staunch in her child rearing, denying hugs and words of love that youngsters need in order to feel complete. Looking and acting every bit the part, Prinz made it perfectly clear she knew what she was doing in her portrayal of a demanding matriarch.
Anthony Crane, John Plumpis and Patricia Buckley in the roles of the adult children of Grandma were convincing in their continued childhood fear of the woman.
Though the script by Simon is somewhat predictable, its interpretation is what makes the house ring with laughter. The Play House sets are usually eye-catching; the interior of Grandma’s house is no exception.
“Lost in Yonkers,” directed by Michael Bloom, won a Pulitzer Prize and it received the Tony Award for Best Play. The show runs through Jan. 31 at the Drury Theatre. For tickets, call 216-795-7000, est. 4 or visit
February 17, 2010
‘Anne Frank’ important for kids to see
I remember visiting the concentration camp at Dachau with students the first time I was in Germany.
I remember taking students a second time some years later to visit the camp, but I had to wait outside because I remembered just how upsetting it was to see man’s inhumanity to man.
I remember being with Model U. N. students at the United Nations Building in New York City and seeing those students weep as they stood in front of “Auschwitz Revisited,” a poster show about that concentration camp.
I remember the display of shoes at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Because I saw G. B. Theatre’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Ashtabula Arts Center, I was once again reminded to respect the dignity of every man.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” is a good show for young people to see — young people who perhaps don’t know the severity of the Holocaust, young people who were born half a century after the end of World War II, or young people for whom Holocaust is just a word. Of course, it isn’t a play with a happy ending. The audience sat stunned as the Nazis swept blitzkrieg-like into the house – lugers waving - and removed the Frank family at gunpoint amidst crying and sobbing.
The cast of this show did an admirable job in portraying a Jewish family hiding from extermination in the attic of a house where they could not make any noise while the business below was open; they could not look out the window; they could not flush the toilet, they could not wear shoes; they could not cough or sneeze; they could not…for the 25 long months they were in hiding.
A story of hiding and family love and psychological deterioration and journal writing and emotion and near starvation, “The Diary of Anne Frank”, directed by Stephen Rhodes, should be a must-see show for families with teenagers. It is well done, poignant, and steps back into history during one of the darkest moments ever recorded. This production, in addition to being entertaining, might just open the doors for some family conversations.
I remember — a bittersweet remembrance — when I was a hugger and greeter for the Nurnberg Military Community Special Olympics in the stadium where Hitler once amassed his troops to encourage the annihilation of Jews and countless others who didn’t quite ‘measure up’ to Nazi Germany standards.
The show runs tonight, Saturday and Sunday Feb. 26 and 27. Curtain time is 8 on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets may be reserved by phoning the arts center at 964-3396.