Category Archives: Reviews

Stay tuned — the songs of Alexander Sage Oyen

I was making my way into my almost-last Fringe show this past spring (Captain Discovery: The Edible Musical) when I was accosted, among the throng of eight or nine people crowding into a closet otherwise known as the Jamie Mykins Theater, by a young man wearing what looked something like a centurion’s helmet.

“I’ve got something for you,” he said, and he reached into his backpack and handed me a CD.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Theater review: ‘The Understudy’ at Mad Cow

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Michele Feren, Brian Brightman and Josh Geoghagan in 'The Understudy' (photo courtesy of Mad Cow Theatre)

There’s something more than a little Kafkaesque about The Understudy. And it’s not just that, in the play-within-a-play at the center of Theresa Rebeck’s 2008 comedy, the scenery has a way of rolling in and out for no apparent reason and the sound and lighting have a way of switching on and off of their own free will.

Continue reading

Theater review: ‘Legacy of Light’ at Mad Cow

Steven Lane (Voltaire) and Heather Charles (Émilie du Châtelet) in Mad Cow Theatre's 'Legacy of Light.' (Photo courtesy of Mad Cow Theatre.)

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

There’s a spark in the eye of Karen Zacarias’s women. You can see it in Émilie du Châtelet, the 18th-century mathematician and physicist at the heart of Legacy of Light, the smart, tender little comedy at Mad Cow Theatre. You can see it in Olivia, the modern-day astrophysicist who’s trying to live her life to the fullest while she has the chance. And you can see it in Millie, a young woman who goes to unusual lengths to build herself a different kind of life.

Continue reading

Postcard from Broadway: ‘The Book of Mormon’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

In the world of The Book of Mormon, Jesus has a Southern accent and flowing blond hair. In the world of The Book of Mormon, Orlando is the most glorious place on earth. In the world of The Book of Mormon, a song called “I Am Africa” is sung by the whitest boys you have ever seen.

Continue reading

Postcard from Broadway: ‘Jerusalem’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Mark Rylance as "Rooster" Johnny Byron in 'Jerusalem.' Photo by Simon Annand.

“Rooster” Johnny Byron has been banned from every pub in Flintock, Wiltshire.

Continue reading

Postcard from Broadway: ‘Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Robin Williams in 'Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.' Photo by Carol Rosegg.

As long as storytellers have existed, they have told us that war is hell.

But few have told us from such a remarkable perspective as Rajiv Joseph, the playwright whose darkly comic drama Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo depicts war through the eyes of a majestic but dead tiger played by Robin Williams, along with an Iraqi gardener, two American soldiers and the playboy psychopath Uday Hussein.

Continue reading

Postcard from Broadway: ‘The Normal Heart’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Joe Mantello and John Benjamin Hickey in 'The Normal Heart' (photo by Joan Marcus)

When reports of the horrors of AIDS first reached the Orlando Sentinel, in the early and mid-1980s, no reporter in the newsroom was assigned to cover the story. It took the newspaper’s dance critic, who was already hearing indications of how the epidemic would hit close to home, to persuade editors that this was a story that had to be heard.

Continue reading

Postcard from Broadway: ‘Arcadia’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

There’s nothing stately about the life in and around Sidley Park, the stately home at the center of Tom Stoppard’s glittering Arcadia. Ideas fly by like tennis balls – ideas about mathematics, and landscape architecture, and thermodynamics, and romantic art. Those who volley such ideas back and forth are blessed with the kinds of minds that can never be stilled. Those who do not are left to watch gape-mouthed in wonder.

Continue reading

Postcard from Broadway: ‘The Motherf**ker With the Hat’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

If you know the playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis from his dramas Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot – both of which have been produced by Orlando’s Empty Spaces Theatre Co(llaboration) – you will most likely be shocked by his latest offering (and his Broadway debut), The Motherf**ker With the Hat.

Continue reading

Theater review: ‘A Funny Thing Happened …’ at Mad Cow

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Rick Stanley as Pseudolus in Mad Cow Theatre's 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.' (Photo by Tom Hurst/Mad Cow Theatre.)

Watching the big cast of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum fit itself onto the decidedly small stage at Mad Cow Theatre is like watching a couple of dozen clowns pour out of an old VW Beetle. You know it can be done, but you’re damned if you can figure out how.

And there’s another similarity: You know this kind of comedy is old hat, but you’re cackling at it all the while.

Forum may be pushing its 50th birthday, and it may turn up on college and community-theater stages often enough to keep composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim in legal pads and pencils. But thanks to director Katrina Ploof and an ace trio of veteran comic actors, this frothy musical comedy comes pretty close to looking like a classic.

The production marks the return to Mad Cow’s stage of actor Rick Stanley, who was everywhere in the theater’s early days but more recently has taken his talents elsewhere. Stanley’s world-weary Pseudolus has seen it all, and his exasperated take on Forum’s Rome and its dimwitted citizens gives the show its comic thrust.

Rick Stanley as Pseudolus, Thomas Ouellette as Hysterium and Stephan Jones as Miles Gloriosus. (Photo by Tom Hurst/Mad Cow Theatre.)

But this particular Pseudolus has artful assistance — from Thomas Ouellette (better known as a director at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Mad Cow and Rollins College’s Annie Russell Theatre), whose nimble-witted Hysterium is beside himself simply because he has seen so terribly much go wrong; and from Stephan Jones, who channels the smoldering bits of his El Gallo and the scary bits of his Sweeney Todd to make a Miles Gloriosus whose might is only exceeded by his vanity.

Forum, of course, is an early 1960s musical-comedy take on burlesque, with comely young women, leering older men and a battle-axe trying and failing to keep everyone else in line. (One of many tips of the hat to burlesque: Pseudolus says he has more bad news to deliver, and Hysterium replies, “I hope it’s good.”)

Thanks to Alan S. Reynolds’ ingenious scenic design, this production suggests a cross-breeding with a later-’60s artifact, Laugh-In: In addition to the three doors in the set that stand for the houses of Erronius, Lycus and Senex, there are hidden windows all over the place, and all manner of unlikely objects show up through those chinks.

And, in a nod to the musical end of musical comedy, choreographer Kevin Davis and his two fellow Proteans (Lori Engler and Patch Panzella) tap-dance niftily through many of their scenes.

Melissa Davis as Philia. (Photo by Tom Hurst/Mad Cow Theatre.)

The cast is filled ably with other comic talents, especially Melissa Davis as the deliciously vacuous maiden Philia to Michael Mucciolo’s sweet-faced Hero; Danny Villnow’s dogged Erronius; and Sara Catherine Barnes’ priceless Gymnasia, a dominatrix with her tongue firmly in her cheek.

Rod Cathey is a suitably brow-beaten Senex; Gail Bartell, her eyes rimmed in black, makes an amusingly scary Domina; and most of the rest of the cast do fine in smaller roles. One favorite moment: When Cathey, Stanley, Ouellette and Tony Dietterick (as Lycus) sing “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid,” the four of them are so cute and silly that they banish any sexist smirk from the stage.

The production’s final melee may seem a little drawn out, but Ploof and musical director Robin Jensen keep things moving nicely most of the time, and their actors leave nothing to chance. You may want to take in Forum just to see Jones use the reflection on his sword to zhuzh his hair, or to hear Ouellette moan like a mule in pain, or to listen to Stanley make his quavering, portentous call to Thespis, the inventor of acting. Whatever reason you have, be assured: Thespis has answered the call.

‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’
What: Mad Cow Theatre production of Stephen Sondheim-Larry Gelbart-Burt Shevelove musical.
Where: Mad Cow Theatre, 105 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through July 10 (also, 7:30 p.m. June 13 and July 4).
Running time: Two hours 20 minutes, with one intermission.
Cost: $29 general, $27 seniors and students, $15 Mondays.
Call: 407-297-8788 Ext. 1.
Online: madcowtheatre.com.

More Fringe reviews online

Just a note to say that I’ve posted 34 Fringe reviews online. If you want to read them, look to the right-hand column of this site and click on the title you want. Happy reading!

Theater review: Orlando Shakespeare’s ‘Charm’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Katherine Michelle Tanner (Margaret Fuller), Allison DeCaro (Lydian Emerson) and Brandon Roberts (Henry David Thoreau) in 'Charm.' Photo by Tony Firriolo/Orlando Shakespeare Theater.

Kathleen Cahill’s Charm is a contradiction unto itself – a comedy with serious undertones, a history that keeps morphing into fantasy, a 19th-century story that leaps forward into the 21st.

Cahill’s heroine, Margaret Fuller, may have been one of the most formidable figures among a whole bunch of formidable types known as the Transcendentalists. But in Cahill’s hands – and in the exhilarating performance of actress Katherine Michelle Tanner – Orlando Shakespeare Theater shows Margaret Fuller forging new meanings for a simple word like charm.

Continue reading

Theater review: ‘Circle Mirror Transformation’ at Mad Cow

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

 

Mark Edward Smith, Jay T. Becker, Marty Stonerock, Becky Lane and Jolie Hart in 'Circle Mirror Transformation'

E.M. Forster put it baldly: “Only connect.”

But connections between people do not happen so easily – not in Forster’s classic novels, and not in Annie Baker’s wry, elliptical new comedy, Circle Mirror Transformation. The connections between people are fraught with complications, as you’ll see in this sweet-tempered little play set in an adult-ed acting class in small-town Vermont.

At Mad Cow Theatre, director Michael Marinaccio doesn’t answer all the questions put forth in Baker’s enigmatic script, which was first performed off-Broadway in 2009. But he and five terrific actors fill in the blanks – not with words, but with emotions, both subtle and raw, that flicker across their faces.

Rebekah Lane (Theresa), Jolie Hart (Lauren) and Jay T. Becker (Schultz) perform a creative-drama game, while Marty Stonerock (Marty) coaches them and Mark Edward Smith (James) looks on.

Continue reading

Theater review: ‘Freud’s Last Session’ at Mad Cow

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

 

Steven Lane as C.S. Lewis and Terry Wells as Sigmund Freud in 'Freud's Last Session' (photo by Tom Hurst/Mad Cow Theatre)

When was the last time you heard people arguing about something important – politics, say, or religion – without raising their voices?

In the modern world, civil discourse has gone the way of the eight-track tape. But not so for the two men who debate the very existence of God in a new drama at Mad Cow Theatre.

That these two men are Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and a confirmed atheist, and C.S. Lewis, the famed novelist and a devout Christian, raises the stakes in Freud’s Last Session, Mark St. Germain’s two-man drama, which opened last summer off-Broadway and is still playing there.

Continue reading

Theater review: ‘Shout! The Mod Musical’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Candace Neal, Heather Alexander, Kate Zaloumes, Natalie Cordone and Sarah-Lee Dobbs in 'Shout! The Mod Musical'

You can call yourself a child of the ‘60s and mean that you care about social justice, that you thrilled to the words of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King and that you sang along with Woody, Bob and Joan.

Or you can call yourself a child of the ‘60s and mean something entirely different – that you remember Mary Quant and Twiggy, that you wore your share of miniskirts and shiny vinyl boots, that you know all the words to “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and that songs like “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” were the anthems of your teenage years.

Continue reading

Theater review: ‘August: Osage County,” at Theatre Downtown

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Pete Penuel, Leslie Penuel and Cira Larkin in 'August: Osage County' at Theatre Downtown

There’s something rotten in the state of Oklahoma – at least if you’re judging from the Westons, the hard-drinking, pill-popping, highly profane and wildly dysfunctional family at the center of Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County.

Continue reading

Theater review: Empty Spaces’ ‘My Name Is Rachel Corrie’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

The real Rachel Corrie, as a girl

Does theater have a responsibility to be even-handed? Does polemical theater have a responsibility to be anything other than propaganda?

Or is the responsibility of theater merely to be good theater?

All of those thoughts, and more, ran through my mind during My Name is Rachel Corrie, Empty Spaces Theatre Co.’s production of the controversial Alan Rickman-Katherine Viner drama, which is onstage at Lowndes Shakespeare Center only through Sunday night.

Continue reading

Theater review: ‘Beowulf’ at Orlando Shakespeare Theater

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Charlie Bethel in 'Beowulf'

Forget Spider-Man; forget Indiana Jones. The most impressive action hero may have been Beowulf, the king of the Geats, who fought monsters and slew dragons across Scandinavia some 1,500 years ago.

Sure, Odysseus may have had him beat by a millennium or so. But it’s hard to best Beowulf for guts, or for gore – or for Charlie Bethel’s captivating retelling at Orlando Shakespeare Theater of the old, old tale.

Continue reading

Theater review: ‘Hunter Gatherers’ at Art’s Sake Studio

Clarification: Howler’s Theatre is owned by Jeremy Wood and Scott Browning and rented Art’s Sake Studio for this production. It’s not officially connected to Art’s Sake, although Art’s Sake is co-producer of ‘Hunter Gatherers’ and all the actors involved are members of the Art’s Sake Resident ensemble.

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Jeremy Wood as Richard

Every year, when Tom and Richard and their wives get together to celebrate their anniversaries, Richard wrestles Tom to the floor.

Tom never wins. And Richard always has to make the point – every year for 17 years – that he’s the alpha male.

What’s a little wrestling between friends? Well, it’s the least of the primal transgressions in Hunter Gatherers, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s wild and woolly comedy, which is getting an appropriately outrageous production at Winter Park’s Art’s Sake Studio.

Continue reading

Theater review: PB&J’s ‘Shhhh!’

By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater

Mark Koenig as a burglar in 'Shhhh!.'

You can take the title of PB&J Theatre Factory’s new comedy, Shhhh!, as a warning.

It’s not just Mark Koenig and Todd Zimmerman, who play burglars in this murder-mystery-satire, who have to be very, very quiet. It’s also the Garden Theatre audience, who must put their ears into concentration mode to pick up all the silliness this show entails.

Continue reading