Categories

The Adventures of Peter Pan ~ Synetic Theater

Jordan Wright
October 24, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

Kathy Gordon as Wendy Darling and Alex Mills as Peter Pan Photographer: Johnny Shryock

Kathy Gordon as Wendy Darling and Alex Mills as Peter Pan ~ Photographer: Johnny Shryock

Despite current accepted psychology ascribing ‘Peter Pan’ as a term for a man who refuses to accept adult responsibilities, we love this familiar tale of an English family of three children who fly off to a fantasy world where Peter and the fairy princess Tinkerbell reside in Neverland – a place of rip-roaring adventure populated by dastardly pirates, beautiful mermaids and motherless boys.  Veteran of numerous Synetic productions, the chameleonic actor, Alex Mills, plays Peter to Ana Tsikurishvili’s lovable Tinkerbell. Ryan Sellers, who recently gave a formidable performance in Synetic’s The Mark of Cain plays Hook with panache satirizing Trump when he’s threatening the boys.  Zana Gankhuyag is Peter’s mute Shadow – a fully developed role that shows off Gankhuyag’s incredible physicality.

Director Paata Tsikurishvili conceives Peter as a symbol for man’s desire to stave off aging.  As he points out in the Playbill, “Everyone from the characters in Greek mythology to the Knights of the Round Table to Indiana Jones – they have all sought the kind of immortality which Peter Pan so effortlessly and carelessly displays and takes for granted in his playful rejection of the real world.”  Echoing that theory, the play opens with a dark scene in the graveyard where Peter mourns the death of his sister.  Thankfully, we needn’t dwell on a deeper meaning to revel this swashbuckling tale of an adventurous lad and his followers.

Ryan Sellers (Captain Hook), Tori Bertocci (Starkey), Nathan Weinberger (Smee - top right) ~ Photographer: Johnny Shryock

Ryan Sellers (Captain Hook), Tori Bertocci (Starkey), Nathan Weinberger (Smee – top right) ~ Photographer: Johnny Shryock

When Peter takes the Darling children the island of Neverland, Wendy (Kathy Gordon) becomes mother to Peter’s crew of Lost Boys who ride unicycles animal heads.  Her brothers, Michael (Scott Whalen) and John (Thomas Beheler), join the motley group in their fight against the evil Captain Hook and his band of ne’er-do-wells.  Nathan Weinberger plays Smee with a comically distended belly wrapped in stripes.  Smee’s explanation for Peter’s eternal youth, “a healthy diet and yoga.” Peter’s explanation for his youthfulness, “Worrying takes the fun out of everything!”  Sage advice.

Kathy Gordon as Wendy Darling and Ryan Sellers as Captain Hook ~ Photographer: Johnny Shryock

Kathy Gordon as Wendy Darling and Ryan Sellers as Captain Hook ~ Photographer: Johnny Shryock

As you’d expect Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili gives the troupe plenty to work with plunging us headlong into a fantasy world filled with high-flying acrobatics and crackling good swordfights masterfully co-choreographed by Vato Tsikurishvili.  (Yes, it’s a family affair.)  She aims to please with a rousing, River Dance style Irish reel to celebrate Wendy’s arrival, another from the Roaring 20’s and a dance for the pirate’s duel with Peter and his Shadow.

Fabulous costumes, especially Tinkerbell’s multi-colored LED lit fairy frock including glittery swimsuits on androgynous mermaids, by Kendra Rai.  Colorful dialogue from Captain Hook’s smarmy crew will have your kids talking like a pirate is by the play’s adaptor, Ed Monk.  My 8-year old seat neighbor was blown away by the spectacular swordplay.

Lost Kids Dancing (from left to right) Thomas Beheler (John Darling), Scott Whalen (Michael Darling), Nate Shelton (Nibs), Anna Lynch (Slightly) ~ Photographer: Johnny Shryock

Lost Kids Dancing (from left to right) Thomas Beheler (John Darling), Scott Whalen (Michael Darling), Nate Shelton (Nibs), Anna Lynch (Slightly) ~ Photographer: Johnny Shryock

Highly recommended for all ages.

Through November 19th at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City.  For tickets and information call 1 800 494-8497 or visit www.synetictheater.org.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike ~ The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
October 23, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

Mario Font as Vanya and Lorraine Bouchard as Masha ~ Photos by: Keith Waters

Mario Font as Vanya and Lorraine Bouchard as Masha ~ Photos by: Keith Waters

In playwright Christopher Durang’s Tony Award-winning comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, characters and themes from Chekhov are resurrected in a Bucks County, PA farmhouse.  Sonia (Lorraine Bouchard) and Vanya (Mario Font), have been caretakers to their ailing actor/professor parents for fifteen years and know no other life than their childhood home – a remote farmhouse with a view to their beloved pond and cherry orchard.  The two reclusive siblings include Sonia, a melancholy spinster with slim marital prospects and Vanya, who has not worked out his future (nor his sexual identity) either.  When the last of their parents dies, the two must confront their unknowable future and reconcile the sacrifices they have made to their parents.

: Marilyn Pifer as Cassandra and Mario Font as Vanya - Photos by: Keith Waters

: Marilyn Pifer as Cassandra and Mario Font as Vanya – Photos by: Keith Waters

Their flighty housekeeper, Cassandra (Marilyn Pifer), a self-proclaimed seer fond of reciting grim snippets from Greek tragedies, warns the siblings to beware of many things – especially a character oddly named ‘Hootie Pie’ – who she predicts will upend their comfortable existence.  Despite their doubts the siblings admit that some of her forecasts have actually come to pass – others not so much.

The set-up is hilarious and factors in their successful sister, Masha (Carol Preston), a Hollywood film star and five-time married cougar who soon arrives for the weekend with her young studly beau, Spike (John Paul Odle), aka ‘Vlad’, yet another Chekhov reference.  Amid much canoodling with Spike, Masha tells them she can no longer continue to underwrite the expenses of maintaining the family home.  Throwing a wrench into the evening before it begins, she reveals she has put their house on the market and they must make arrangements to leave.  But first she insists they accompany her to a neighbor’s costume party that night at the former home of Dorothy Parker, where they will go as entourage dwarves to her Snow White and Spike’s sexy Prince.  She tells them their costumes have been arranged by her assistant, Hootie Pie.

Meanwhile, Spike meets Nina (Hannah-Lee Grothaus), a neighbor’s pretty niece, and Masha’s claws come out.  The aging actress’ fierce jealousies and cruel insults to Sonia, leave Vanya to put out the family fires.

: (Back) Carol Preston as Masha, John Paul Odle as Spike, (Front) Hannah-Lee Grothaus as Nina, Mario Font as Vanya, Lorraine Bouchard as Sonia and Marilyn Pifer as Cassandra ~ Photos by: Keith Waters

: (Back) Carol Preston as Masha, John Paul Odle as Spike, (Front) Hannah-Lee Grothaus as Nina, Mario Font as Vanya, Lorraine Bouchard as Sonia and Marilyn Pifer as Cassandra ~ Photos by: Keith Waters

References to known locations in Bucks County, a writer/theater community within commuting distance of New York City, will delight and amuse those familiar with its history and famous denizens.  I got a chuckle from a reference to the New Hope Wawa, the only spot open after 6pm for miles around. (My family frequented that very convenience store for over 50 years as their source for emergency groceries.) 

Director Howard Kurtz does his best to pull this lifeless production together, but it never congeals, despite its humorously drawn characters, hilarious one-liners and Vanya’s rousing diatribe on Spike’s addiction to modern technology. “Our lives are all disconnected,” he howls.  And though the cast individually have their moments, there is no cohesion between the actors and the sense that everyone is acting in a different play, on varying levels of intensity, undercuts its success.  Indeed, the whole does not amount to the sum of its parts.

Through November 11th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com

Émilie – La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight ~ WSC Avant Bard

Jordan Wright
October 20, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

(From left:) Sara Barker (Emilie), Brit Herring (Voltaire) ~ Photo credit: DJ Corey Photography

(l-r) Sara Barker (Emilie), Brit Herring (Voltaire) ~ Photo credit: DJ Corey Photography

The story of Émilie, La Marquise du Châtelet, a woman of science lightyears ahead of her time, is yet another thrilling play by Lauren Gunderson, the most-produced living playwright in America this season.  It’s an intellectually-minded comic drama that delivers both wit and passion in spades.  Based on the true story of the noted physicist and her decades-long collaboration with Voltaire, the 18th C poet, historian, and political rabble rouser, it appeals to an audience longing for representations of women of substance – especially those pioneers of science who fought hard for recognition in a male-dominated society.  The latest to have been brought to our attention is Katherine Johnson, the African-American mathematician whose story was depicted in the Oscar-nominated movie, Hidden Figures.

(From left:) Lisa Hodsoll (Madam), Billie Krishawn (Soubrette), Sara Barker (Emilie), Steve Lebens (Gentleman) ~ Photo credit: DJ Corey Photography

(l-r) Lisa Hodsoll (Madam), Billie Krishawn (Soubrette), Sara Barker (Emilie), Steve Lebens (Gentleman) ~ Photo credit: DJ Corey Photography

In the role of a lifetime Sara Barker as Émilie provides us with a breathtaking, woman-in-full performance.  Barker’s uncanny ability to get into the skin of the famed scientist and author is nothing less than spectacular.  In defending the Marquise’s theory, a departure from Newton’s original, ‘Force, Motion, Mass Squared’ (“The squaring adds Life,” she concludes), Barker more than adopts Émilie’s brain, she appears to viscerally inhabit it.

In this plot, Émilie is eloquently matched by Voltaire, a mercurial romantic with an egotistical intellect, played admirably by Brit Herring.  Together they form an alliance of ideas, “You’re a stunning woman, and an impressive man,” he tells her backhandedly.  Until, ultimately, when she proves she is the true scientist of the two, he defames her, portraying her to the men of the Academy of Sciences as an insignificant female dilettante.

(From left:) Billie Krishawn (Soubrette), Sara Barker (Emilie), Brit Herring (Voltaire) ~ Photo credit: DJ Corey Photography

(l-r) Billie Krishawn (Soubrette), Sara Barker (Emilie), Brit Herring (Voltaire) ~ Photo credit: DJ Corey Photography

Director Rick Hammerly has Émilie keeping score of both her scholarly and romantic successes on framed panels of glass.  She is fiercely competitive!  When she wins an argument, or one-ups Voltaire, she makes white chalk marks to indicate her triumphs.  Other furnishings combine 18th century elegance, like a curved leg writing desk and sparkling crystal chandelier, with modern day chrome and Lucite used in a madcap scene of musical chairs.  Female actors wear corsets and paniers with denim jeans to parallel modern day misogyny.  Especially noteworthy is Joseph R. Walls dramatic lighting and Frank DiSalvo Jr.’s sound design incorporating period music and striking sound effects.

Gunderson uses hilarity to depict their quixotic love scenes as when Voltaire aims to distract her with words of love.  “Be my muse,” he implores.  “Stop wooing, I can’t think,” she replies.

If I gave out stars (which as you know I don’t), this one would have five!  Go!

With Lisa Hodsoll as Madam, Billie Krishawn as Soubrette, and Steve Lebens as Gentleman.

Through November 12th at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two – 2700 South Lang Street, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 418.4808 or go online at www.AvantBard.org/tickets

Antony and Cleopatra ~ Folger Theatre

Jordan Wright
October 19, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

A moment of flirtatious play between Mark Antony (Cody Nickell) and his Cleopatra (Shirine Babb). Photo by Teresa Wood.

A moment of flirtatious play between Mark Antony (Cody Nickell) and his Cleopatra (Shirine Babb). Photo by Teresa Wood.

“Kingdoms are clay,” warns Antony to his beloved Cleopatra in the opening scene of Antony and Cleopatra.  Even the Soothsayer foretells their downfall and the untimely demise of the lovers.  But dire prophesies do not dissuade the ego-centric Antony from fulfilling his desires, nor us from enjoying this lightly condensed version of one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays.  And though both Romans and Egyptians tended to heed the warnings from mythological Gods and Goddesses, what the heck?  They were human, after all, notwithstanding their respective royal bubbles.

A meeting of Rome’s leaders, the triumvirate. Pictured left to right: Robbie Gay (Lepidus), Dylan Paul (Octavius Caesar), Cody Nickell (Mark Antony), with Chris Genebach (Agrippa) looking on the proceeding. Photo by Teresa Wood.

A meeting of Rome’s leaders, the triumvirate. Pictured left to right: Robbie Gay (Lepidus), Dylan Paul (Octavius Caesar), Cody Nickell (Mark Antony), with Chris Genebach (Agrippa) looking on the proceeding. Photo by Teresa Wood.

From the get go Antony knows his love for his lusty queen is doomed, yet he is so besotted, so incapable of making intelligent decisions, that he ignores the sage advice of Octavius Caesar and his military leader Lepidus to abandon his pursuit of Cleopatra.  With one foot in Egypt and the other in Rome, he is utterly conflicted.  Love, or country?  It’s complicated – especially to those lost in lust.

Performed in the round with a revolving circular platform on center stage, the production is intimate, energetic and action-packed.  Director Robert Richmond calls Tony Cisek’s set design “gladiatorial”, which makes for a perfectly suited space to view hyper-electrifying of combat and romance as emotions swing to and fro like an amped up pendulum.

Mardian (John Floyd) and Charmian (Simoné Elizabeth Bart) tend to their Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra (Shirine Babb) in Antony and Cleopatra. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Mardian (John Floyd) and Charmian (Simoné Elizabeth Bart) tend to their Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra (Shirine Babb) in Antony and Cleopatra. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Shirine Babb’s Cleopatra is ruthless and fierce yet with a sensual nature that challenges Antony to meet her impossible demands.  It’s a formidable counterbalance to Cody Nickell’s fiery, bombastic, delusional Antony and evident in their playful love scenes that skew modern (we don’t feel as though we’re hanging around in 40 BC), as well as adding punch to their wittily flip, and ferociously bruising, quarrels.  As two of the most powerful figures of their time, their impetuous decisions and recurrent contretemps (Are they getting along today, or not?) affected whole nations and the future of the known world.

Cleopatra (Shirine Babb) gives comfort to her dying Mark Antony (Cody Nickell) . Photo by Teresa Wood.

Cleopatra (Shirine Babb) gives comfort to her dying Mark Antony (Cody Nickell) . Photo by Teresa Wood.

In this vivid portrait of two lovers, both rulers and conquerors, we see two megalomaniacs locked in battle for dominance while vulnerable to their unbridled passions.  Whether it’s a battle scene executed in dance form by the soldiers or a love scene framed by a silk-draped bed, Costume Designer Mariah Hale gives us diaphanous, gem-colored gowns for the ladies with a glittering, golden cloche for Queen Cleopatra, and leather-girded and metal-studded togas with silken scarlet capes for the men.  Dramatic scene-enhancing moods set by Adam Stamper on sound design and Andrew F. Griffin on lighting.

Highly recommended.

With Simone Elizabeth Bart as Charmian; John Floyd as Mardian; Robbie Gay as Lepidus and Dolabella; Chris Genebach as Agrippa; Nigel Gore as Enobarbus; Nicole King as Iras and Octavia; Anthony Michael Martinez as Soothsayer and Eros; and Dylan Paul as Octavius Caesar.

Through November 19th at the Folger Theatre at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003.   For tickets and information call 202 544-7077 or visit www.Folger.edu/theatre.

The Price ~ Arena Stage

Jordan Wright
October 10, 2017
Special to The Alexandria Times

(L to R) Hal Linden as Gregory Solomon and Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Victor Franz. Photo by Colin Hovde.

(L to R) Hal Linden as Gregory Solomon and Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Victor Franz. Photo by Colin Hovde.

For Arena Stage’s 20th Anniversary season, Artistic Director Molly Smith has placed her bets on Hal Linden, an actor’s actor whose comedic timing is a veritable master class.  Linden plays the part of Gregory Solomon, a Russian Jew and antique dealer in Arthur Miller’s classic play, The Price.  It’s sheer pleasure to watch Linden ply his lines and experience his instinctively smooth delivery and Old Country accent – with a hearty dose of shtick added for good measure.  Playing off an exceptional performance of Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Victor Franz, a frustrated cop who failed to realize his potential, this production, artfully directed by Seema Sueko, is a well-cast delight that brings both searing drama and mood-lightening humor to the American stage.

Victor and his wife, Esther (Pearl Sun) are liquidating the estate of his late, formerly wealthy father, a failed businessman that pitted his two sons against each other.  Walter (Rafael Untalan), a successful surgeon who hasn’t spoken to his brother in 16 years, encourages Victor and his wife to keep the proceeds.  Clearly, he feels some compunction that he hasn’t returned Victor’s calls.  And though Esther encourages them to patch up their relationship, Victor is stuck in past resentments, unable to decide on his retirement date and his plans for their future.

(L to R) Pearl Sun as Esther Franz, Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Victor Franz and Rafael Untalan as Walter Franz. Photo by Colin Hovde.

(L to R) Pearl Sun as Esther Franz, Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Victor Franz and Rafael Untalan as Walter Franz. Photo by Colin Hovde.

As Gregory tries to convince Victor how worthless the antiques are, it becomes a parlor game between the two, with the old man using his considerable bargaining skills and Victor feeling taken.  Every time Victor feels as though he’s struck a deal, the street savvy Gregory turns the tables, stalling for time.  In a particularly hilarious scene, the sly swindler plops down on a chair and peels a hard cooked egg, toying with Victor like a lion with its prey.

As the brothers attempt to smooth out their acrimony, with Esther as cheerleader, they relegate Gregory to a back room from where he pops out to renegotiate at the most inopportune moments to great comic relief.  Against the backdrop of his comedic interruptions, the brothers’ long-simmering jealousies surface and the self-righteous Victor destroys any hope of reconciliation.

(L to R) Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Victor Franz and Hal Linden as Gregory Solomon. Photo by Colin Hovde.

(L to R) Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Victor Franz and Hal Linden as Gregory Solomon. Photo by Colin Hovde.

The action takes place in the late 60’s in the attic of their father’s former shop where Set Designer Wilson Chin piles period antiques to the rafters evoking memories of the brothers’ past and a lifetime of disappointments.

Highly recommended.

Through November 12th at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St., SE, Washington, DC 20024.  For tickets and information call 202 488-3300 or visit www.ArenaStage.org.