I’m in double rehearsals now, so I’m afraid I have been doing a terrible job keeping up with blogging about shows I’ve seen. Several pieces I’ve seen have closed, so here is just a quick catch-up.
Sycamore Trees, Signature Theatre – 1 star – Sycamore Trees, written and composed by Ricky Ian Gordon and Nine Mankin, is about the childhood of Gordon and what it was like growing up gay in a working class Jewish family with three older sisters. Rather than just telling the story, Gordon chooses to Tell the story, with characters coming forward and saying things like, “it’s my turn to talk now.” Director Tina Landau has assembled an incredibly talented cast, but they can come nowhere close to saving this predictable, overwrought, angsty musical. Within 30 seconds of the lights coming up, I knew everything that was going to happen, and the piece never once surprised me.
Gruesome Playground Injuries, Woolly Mammoth – 3 stars. This play has a very interesting premise. It jumps around in time and tells the story of the friendship/love of Doug and Kayleen, but their relationship is revealed through a series of injuries. The time Doug was hit by lightning. The time Kayleen was sick at the school dance. The time Doug chipped his tooth. The idea being, I guess, that love is painful. The actors, Tim Getman and Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey do good work, but script doesn’t actually go anywhere in the end. The characters don’t change a great deal, and as a result you leave feeling like you saw the same scene played ten times.
The Ramayana, Constellation Theatre Company – 3 stars. It’s a treat to take in another epic piece of theatre performed by the Constellation Theatre Company and directed by Allison Arkell Stockman. It’s really nice to see the company keep on improving, and The Ramayana certainly has the most consistent level of talent in the ensemble of their big shows I’ve seen. Also, Constellation’s partnership with musician Tom Teasley has reached perfection. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to make a musical score work in a play, look no further than this production. Joe Brack gives a very appealing performance as Hanuman, the monkey god, Danny Gavigan has lovely, tender moments as the loyal Lakshman, and the cast also includes the ever reliable Ashley Ivey and Katie Atkinson. Peter Oswald’s script isn’t perfect. The monkeys are very clearly the comic relief in the play, and I think Oswald spends too much time with them, getting as much cheap entertainment as he can. I mean, the monkey scenes were delightful, but I think they skew the focus of the piece too much.
Blackbird, Everyman Theatre – 4 stars. I’m not technically behind on blogging for this show, I just happened to see it on closing night. Which is unfortunate, since I would have highly recommended it. I saw the production at Studio a little while ago, which was technically proficient, but never managed to draw me in. Seeing the play again made me realize just what a hard text it is. Playwright David Harrower has written a script full of stops and starts, half thoughts, single words that get interrupted. It’s very hard to deliver these lines in a natural way. The production at Everyman was finely directed by Derek Goldman, and David Parkes had perfect timing and delivery of these lines as Ray. Megan Anderson had a very specific vocal pattern (somewhat robotic at times) as Una, but her very believable emotional connection managed to make it work. I haven’t seen her perform before, but I think this may have been a specific choice to show how tightly wound Una was and how much she was trying to hold it together, because the one single moment when Anderson broke that vocal pattern was incredibly powerful.