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"Ho Ho Ho," November 29 - December 8, Columbia Children's Theatre, 691-4548.
"The Little Prince," December 5-15, Sumter Little Theatre, 775-2150.
"A Christmas Carol," December 6-21, Trustus Theatre, 254-9732.
"Always... Patsy Cline," December 6-15, Village Square Theatre, 359-1436.
Press Releases for Current Shows
Camden Community Theatre
Center Stage Youth Theatre
Chapin Community Theatre
Columbia Children's Theatre
On Stage Productions
Ritz Theatre of Newberry
SC Shakespeare Company
Stage 5 Theatre
Sumter Little Theatre
Village Square Theatre
Columbia Children's Theatre's “Ho Ho Ho” is a pleasant break from shopping.
Review by August Krickel.
Getting ready for the
holidays can become a tiring and burdensome chore, in between screaming
children, increasing commercialization, and sheer amount of time and effort
involved. But what if you're Santa Claus, and you've got the seasonal blues? That's the question posed in British
playwright Mike Kenny's Ho Ho Ho, now running at Columbia Children's
Theatre through this weekend. Kenny, an Olivier Award (comparable to a Tony)
winner for a presumably traditional stage adaptation of The Railway Children,
wrote this amusing little diversion as a piece for British pantomime, or
"panto," which is a popular holiday entertainment for children in the
UK and its former colonies. Director Frank Thompson has excised or
adapted anything that might be confusing to American audiences, and while the
humor is broader than broad, and sillier than silly, Ho Ho Ho is also
awfully cute at times; it's just the thing for the first-grader or
preschooler in your family, as well as a pleasant little break from shopping
that might just help mom and dad get back into the Christmas spirit too.
Nyland (alternating in the role with Bill DeWitt) and CCT favorite Elizabeth
Stepp play troublesome, prank-playing little elves who serve as both Santa's
helpers, and surrogate children for Mother and Father Christmas. Their
hijinks (quarreling over dinner, fighting over toys, making themselves sick
with sweets) contribute to Father's malaise. Stepp has few lines, but has
perfected a deliciously mischievous elf-giggle, and exits the last scene with a
trademark cartwheel. She's also called on to break into tears repeatedly,
and she sobs with convincing gusto. My second Christmas wish is some day to see
Stepp in the lead of a mainstream comedy or drama, perhaps The Star Spangled
Girl, or The Heidi Chronicles.
Visit http://www.columbiachildrenstheatre.com for more information.
Town Theatre's “The Foreigner” Is Short On Subtlety, Long On Comedy
Review by August Krickel.
Depending on how you do
the math, this is either the 4th, 5th or 6th time Town Theatre has produced
Larry Shue's insanely popular farce The Foreigner since 1987.
That initial run sold out so quickly that the play was brought back at season's
end, then revived with most of the original cast in 1990, and produced again in
the mid-90's and in 2004, all with one or more cast members from previous
productions, and always including Bill Canaday as Ellard. Canaday has now
passed the comedic baton to the next generation; while director Allison
McNeely's revival of this perennial audience favorite is short on subtlety and
long on physical comedy and Southern stereotypes, the evening is undeniably
filled with laughter, and energetic, entertaining performances.
As Ellard, Charlie
Goodrich takes great care to make a somewhat mentally-challenged character believable
and sympathetic. As various characters snap at him, Goodrich's pained and
fearful expressions, and assorted stage business, imply how rough life has
been on someone who probably never had anything more than mild Asperger's
syndrome. Much of the comedy relates to Ellard's deep Southern
pronunciation of words, and there's about 5 minutes of non-stop laughter at one
point as Thompson and Goodrich go to town with some outrageous schtick, but the
script is funny on its own, and Goodrich sometimes overdoes it just a bit. One
imagines that as the show continues its run, a more natural rhythm will develop
for what is some genuinely funny dialogue.
As Catherine, Erika
Bryant is a bit shrill initially, jumbling her words together almost
incomprehensibly, and constantly berating poor Ellard. As the play progresses,
however, she softens, discovering her humanity. The character is the
annoying one at first, not the actress, and Bryant does a nice job at
portraying a former debutante (think a younger Suzanne Sugarbaker) suddenly
overwhelmed by life. She's what the late Joe Nettles, a longtime Town
Theatre volunteer and Board member in the 50's and 60's, would have called a
"toothsome blonde," i.e. a delectable beauty, and she credibly breaks
down in tears at one point, just as she accomplished so flawlessly in the
recent Les Miserables (in which she played Cosette, opposite Dodds as
Enjolras, Goodrich as Grantaire, and Thompson as Thenardier). Plus she gets to
wear some truly beautiful dresses, courtesy of costumer Lori Stepp. Costumes in
fact are uniformly appropriate for all except Medlin, whose non-com character
would probably be wearing fatigues in this day and time. Medlin's British
accent also comes and goes, but he's the perfect type for the role of Froggy,
and of course Kathy Hartzog always does well as a feisty Southerner.
The play continues through Sunday, Dec. 1st; it's worth noting that I admire local theatres that add a final Sunday matinee for a family-friendly show, which The Foreigner absolutely is (apart from a couple of basic-cable, 4-letter words including a "Holy Sh!t" from DeWitt that gets perhaps the biggest laugh of all). Contact the box office at 803-799-2510, or visit www.towntheatre.com for ticket information.
Veteran Actors Carry Workshop Theatre's Revival of “Sleuth”
Review by August Krickel.
Workshop Theatre succeeds with its new revival of Sleuth, Anthony Shaffer's classic mystery of wit and deception, thanks to its two leads, local theatre veterans Hunter Boyle and Jason Stokes. A perennial crowd-pleaser at regional, community and dinner theatres for decades now, Sleuth is sometimes forgotten as one of the biggest hits of its era, winning the Tony for Best New Play in 1971, and running for over 1200 performances on Broadway, a feat surpassed by only a tiny handful of non-musicals in the subsequent 42 years. Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine were both nominated for Oscars for the film version, cancelling each other out and losing to Brando in The Godfather. One critic recently wrote that shows like this eventually enter into our collective, shared cultural knowledge, and therefore some of its twists, turns and devices may now seem a little familiar, even quaint, to audiences indoctrinated by hundreds of whodunnits every week on television, from C.S.I. to the Law & Order franchise. Yet in its day, Sleuth was actually a fairly sharp criticism of the old "the butler did it," Agatha Christie-style mysteries that had dominated stage and page for a century, as Boyle's character, successful mystery novelist Andrew, complains about the conventions and paradigms of the genre that he admits even he over-uses. Shaffer then broke a number of those rules that dictate how Professor Plum did it in the drawing room, and blew the minds of 1970’s audiences through dizzying turns and surprises.
With this in mind I brought along two young friends to opening night, a junior in college and a senior in high school, to see their reaction. They certainly enjoyed it, although both spotted one of the plot twists (while not completely guessing its significance) and suspected another. Yet because the script begins with a good bit of comedy and light wordplay, both were clearly surprised and leaned forward intently in their seats when the plot began to take a decidedly darker turn. "Suddenly, it got very real," when a gun is drawn and then fired, the college student observed at intermission.
the plot simply cannot be discussed, so as to avoid spoilers. In brief,
pompous, famous novelist Andrew invites his wife's young lover
Andrew is a little fussier, and more prone to assorted mannerisms that easily
generate laughter, than you'd expect from a character who was played by
debonair aristocrats like Patrick Macnee (the bowler-wearing Steed from The
Avengers). Boyle's comic interpretation recalls versatile character
actors like Robert Morley and Peter Ustinov. In many ways, Boyle is
playing a variation on the grandiose character that he specializes in, but it
works, because the audience is lulled into a false sense of security, making
some plot developments quite shocking, as the audience realizes this isn't
really a comedy at all. Stokes underplays the part of Milo, providing a
nice contrast with Boyle; Andrew's ego proves to be his undoing, and neither
he nor the audience suspect that
Strange's set is up to its usual high level of excellence, although the limited
width of the Workshop stage makes the stately manor setting look more like a
posh town house or split level. Makeup by Robin Gottlieb is surprisingly
simple but quite effective. This type of play is dependent on special
effects, including gunshots, props that break at the right moment, even an
explosion, and there were some inevitable opening night glitches that
fortunately didn't detract from anything. Special praise goes to Boyle
for ad-libbing perfectly, in character, at a critical moment to make a
save. On a side-note, a live version of Sleuth which I saw in
biggest mystery, and a far bigger shock than any surprise ending, was the
number of empty seats, even if just a few, on the opening night of an
important play at one of the
Trustus Theatre's “Venus in Fur” More Than Just Good Kinky Fun
Review by Jeffrey Day.
David Ives’ Venus in Fur is a wild ride for everyone involved – the two actors, the characters and the audience - full of sexy play, word and otherwise, and humor with a vaguely threatening wash over it all. It’s a play within a play within a book wrapped up in a realistic setting that transforms into something not realistic at all.
For all the titillating promotion and pictures of the lead actress in corset, garter and stockings that always accompany productions of the play, most of the “messing around” takes place in the mind. This is an extraordinarily demanding play for the actors, especially the woman who over the course of the play really takes on multiple roles calling for many voices and physical characteristics she must switch into seamlessly. And it calls for a director who can keep all the complicated elements clear, not rush things, but not let them drag either, and maintain the audience’s belief in the mind-bending turns it takes.
Trustus Theatre’s production is ably led by Jim O’Connor, a director whose long and varied experience is invaluable in making all the parts work. With actors Jennifer Moody Sanchez and Bobby Bloom he’s working with excellent resources. There are so many things that could go wrong in a production of Venus in Fur, but they don’t in this one.
In the play, Thomas Novachek has written and is planning to direct an adaptation of the 1870 novel Venus in Furs (in the novel it is plural) by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch from whom we get the word “masochism.” When the play opens, he’s on the phone complaining to his girlfriend about how terrible the actresses who’ve auditioned to play the role of Vanda have been. As he’s ready to give up and go home, there’s a knock at the door of the run down-space where he’s holding auditions. It’s another actress ready to try out even though auditions are over, the other reader had gone home and she’s many hours late for the audition appointment she doesn’t actually have. She’s been caught in the rain, groped on the subway and is totally clueless. Her talk consists mostly of “whatevers,” “likes” and string of “f….” She has aggressively bad posture and clops around like a horse in her ill-fitting raincoat that opens enough to show she’s wearing little underneath. Oh and she happens to be named Vanda. How convenient. Thomas tries his best to get rid of her, but finally surrenders and they start reading together, him playing the role of Severin, the man who says he wishes to be dominated.
But Vanda isn’t what she seems. She undergoes a transformation before our eyes as does the play. The two are now in the play within a play and in time in the original book with shifts back to the little studio space where Vanda suddenly blurts out extraordinarily misguided pronouncements about the play and the book. But as the play heads off into a magical not-here place it becomes more and more about here and now and the power balance between all men and all women over thousands of years. If all these flights of imagination and the shifts among the stories within stories and characters sound a bit confounding, on stage they are not.
Both the actors handle well the subtlety that it calls for most of the time. Moody Sanchez is called upon to use a few too many voices, some of them unnecessarily exaggerated and occasionally her shift from character to character gets a stuck in between for a few seconds. It would be easy for the actor playing Thomas to ride on the wave of Vanda – or be drowned by it - but Bloom never does.
There are a few things that don’t work. When an actor is lying on the couch the audience’s view if mostly of their neck and nostrils. The set is unnecessarily grim; the play takes place in a non-descript black box studio theater not a North Korean prison.
Those attracted to Venus in Fur for its “good, kinky fun” (in the words of The New York Times) won’t be disappointed, but Ives’ play will give them much more than that whether they want it or not. Submit to it.
The play runs Saturday Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. (sold out) and 10 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 10 at 3 p.m.; Nov. 14 at 8 p.m.; Nov. 15 at 7:30 and 10 p.m. and Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. For more information visit our Press Releases page. For reservations call the Trustus box office at 254-9732.
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