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"Marvin's Room" at Chapin Theatre Company

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Now Playing:
"Last Stop Chapin," September 5-20, Chapin Theatre Company, 240-8544.

"Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," September 12-27, Trustus Side Door Theatre, 254-9732.

"Five Guys Named Moe," September 18-21, Workshop Theatre, 799-6551.

"Oklahoma," September 19 - October 11, Town Theatre, 799-2510.

"The Legends of Country Music Show," September 19-28, On Stage Productions, 351-6751.

"Grease," September 26 - October 12, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.

"The Foreigner: Dinner Theatre," September 28-29, Ritz Theatre of Newberry, 924-7158.

"The Shape of Things," October 16-26, Sumter Little theatre, 775-2150.

"The Other Place," October 17 - November 1, Trustus Side Door Theatre, 254-9732.

"The Dining Room," November 6-9, Workshop Theatre, 799-6551.

"Cheaper By the Dozen," November 7-16, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.

"Much Ado About Nothing," November 8-17, Ritz Theatre of Newberry, 924-7158.

"White Christmas," November 14 - December 7, Town Theatre, 799-2510.

"A Christmas Carol," November 21 - December 20, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.

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Chapin Theatre Company’s “Last Stop Chapin” Is a Pleasant Surprise

Review by James Harley

When you hear that a local community theatre is producing an original work by a local playwright, your initial reaction may naturally be divided between “cool, let’s go support the local scene” and a reasonable fear of potential mediocrity. If indeed you’ve had these thoughts regarding Chapin Theatre Company’s world premiere production of Todd Kemmerling’s “Last Stop Chapin,” rest assured that while not an award winner the show (and play) are both pleasantly surprising in quality.

“Last Stop Chapin” tells the story of Tripp Corbett, a teenager about to graduate from high school in the small rural town of – you guessed it – Chapin. As it so often does at this point, life hits Tripp in the face with numerous options. Should the young man stay at home with his girlfriend and take over the management of his family’s car repair service as his father encourages, or should he leave town to chase his long held dream of becoming a successful songwriter and touring musician? Either option is realistic, as his band has garnered the attention of a major record label. The choice becomes more difficult with each passing scene as issues, often dramatic, arise within and beyond the family, ultimately delivering the profound message that it’s not impossible to follow both your heart and your mind.

Playwright Todd Kemmerling keeps the story intriguing with the periodic dramatic revelations, most of which involve fairly universal issues thus appealing to any standard audience. Chance plays a big role, as do personalities, impulses and loyalties, all things we can relate to. While not necessarily life changing for the viewer, the play’s resolution is certainly life affirming.

The production quality is fairly standard for the Chapin Theatre Company with reasonable scenery, especially given the highly cinematic nature of the script which moves rapidly from scene to scene and location to location. This naturally limits the detailing of each location but does not have an overall negative impact, with the exception of the cemetery where Tripp goes to watch the trains pass. As a key symbolic location, this one could be better manifested. If any other technical element lessens overall quality it’s the overuse of body microphones, a trend I personally dislike but which may not bother others so greatly.

Among the performers, Tyler Kemmerling (son of the playwright) does a good job as Tripp, a role he has been familiar with since its inception several years ago in rough draft form. George Dinsmore is his usual subtle self as Tripp’s uncle Mike, in constant battle with Tripp’s demanding father Harlan, played by not-so-subtle Merritt Vann, who makes sure the audience feels his mood at any given moment, sometimes to a fault.

Worthy of special mention are Cathy Carter Scott as Tripp’s mother, Abby, who is the most natural and believable character on the stage, along with Jim DeFelice who is the most interesting, well-chiseled and entertaining as Walt, Harlan’s elderly employee at the repair shop. The show also provides a special treat in the role of the young and adorable Emma Corbett, played by Eliza Scheider, whose presence generates multiple “awwwwws” throughout the second act. If you have a small child that you’d like to encourage to enter the performing arts, Eliza alone is reason enough to reserve your tickets.

As a community theatre production there’s some overacting to wade through, but Jocelyn Sanders’ effective direction and the fast pace of the action successfully limits that to short moments, providing a pleasant experience overall. The added intrigue of the script being local makes this show worth supporting, this trend worth encouraging and not a waste of your time or money.

“Last Stop Chapin” runs through September 20 at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, 7300 College Street in Irmo. For tickets call Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006 or visit the Chapin Theatre Company website to purchase online. For more information visit our Press Releases page.



Trustus Theatre's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Offers Frivolous Fun, Little Substance

Review by August Krickel

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (hereafter referred to as Vanya et al.) won six major awards in New York for best new play in 2013, including the Tony. Running at Trustus Theatre through September 27, the show is frivolous fun that doesn't exactly challenge the audience, but certainly amuses and entertains.

The surface plot is simple: fading screen star Masha (Vicky Saye Henderson) and boy-toy du jour Spike (Jimmy Wall) visit her brother Vanya (Glenn Rawls) and adoptive sister Sonia (Dewey Scott-Wiley). Masha paid the bills while her siblings cared for their now-deceased parents, causing them to devolve into dreary recluses in the family's country home. While Spike flirts with nubile neighbor girl Nina (Stephanie Walden), Masha longs for a chance at serious stage or film work.  Vanya seems almost complacent with idle retirement from a career that never was, but Sonia grows increasingly frustrated, after dreaming that she is 52 and unmarried.  "Were you dreaming in the documentary form?" Vanya tartly asks, with one of playwright Christopher Durang's many priceless bon mots.

Durang is best known for work in two genres: wickedly funny comedies satirizing modern relationships, and erudite parodies that spoof everything from the works of Charles Dickens and Tennessee Williams to parochial schools, Hollywood movies, and actors' nightmares. Vanya et al. combines both forms, with the titular siblings painfully aware of their similarity to the Chekhov characters for whom their academician parents named them, yet oblivious to Durang's complex mash-up of Chekhovian themes. 

Fans of Scott-Wiley and Henderson will delight in seeing them at their most comedically unrestrained, careening through depression, elation, frustration, and all points in between. Ellen Rodillo-Fowler, as aptly-named psychic housekeeper Cassandra, tops them in outrageous antics, and it’s nice to see her in a juicy and flamboyant character role.  That said, all three characterizations border on caricature in the first act; they’re hilarious, and they grow on you, but it takes a while to get used to such histrionics. I responded more to Rawls's under-stated, nuanced, restrained performance. His extended paean to the simpler times that baby boomers enjoyed in their youth is quite touching, and drew a spontaneous round of applause from the opening night audience. Walden too is a delight. With fewer lines and less time on stage than the rest, she employs about a hundred different subtleties of body language to define the play's most realistic and sympathetic character. Wall is the newest to acting, meaning that opposite such a powerful cast, he often fares like a Division III freshman tackle going up against Jadeveon Clowney. Still, he gets his share of laughter, recreating a failed audition for a TV pilot, using only his lines without the casting director’s responses. “Maybe you'll come close to getting another part soon,” quips Sonia, in a line worthy of Wilde or Shaw.

Apart from a few expletives and references to sex, the script is almost G-rated.  Vanya et al. is ultimately a lightweight, if cleverly crafted, domestic comedy that is played like the broadest of farces. Spike does a reverse strip-tease to the delight of the gay-in-theory, celibate-in-practice Vanya; Cassandra torments Masha with a voodoo doll, and everyone ends up dressed as characters from Snow White.  Director Jim O'Connor, who managed to wring laughs from serious, uncomfortable subject matter in Venus in Fur and Clybourne Park last year, has presumably empowered his cast to go for broke, and they leap at the opportunity.  A whimsical piece like this wears thin after about 90 minutes (the show originated as a long-one act and was later expanded), yet with intermission and extended pauses for riotous laughter, opening night ran an hour longer. My only fear is that sophisticated newcomers to Trustus and/or to the burgeoning Columbia arts/theatre scene, may assume that Trustus limits itself to frothy fare, which is far from true.  Yet Vanya et al. ran for seven months on Broadway, and was one of the most widely-produced plays in the country last year. Durang enthusiasts and audiences looking for a good time won’t be disappointed.   

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike runs through Saturday, September 27; visit www.trustus.org for ticket information.  Following the matinee on September 21, there will be a post-show audience talk-back session, allowing audience members to ask questions about the production and discuss their reactions to its themes and content.










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