Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Live Theatre Review - Zorro the Musical

For one more weekend only, Sociedad Actoral Hispanoamericana in association with Zorro London Limited puts on a feast for the senses in the thrilling Zorro The Musical, directed by Miguel Sahid, at Miami Theater Center.

The show features music from the famed flamenco pop band The Gipsy Kings. The cast belts out number after fabulous number and the effect is infectious. The Gypsy troupe executes huge dance numbers in bright, exotic costumes. They dance with spirited passion and combine to beautiful effect. I was particularly impressed with outstanding dancers Serena Concepcion and Any Dalay; Dalay, as the youngest of the Gypsies, exhibits a poise and confidence to rival any of her co-stars.

The amount of work that went into these performances is evident as the dance moves were crisp and tight where they needed to be and alternately flowing and sensual. (Credit is due to choreographer Manny Castro, Jr.) The freedom in the spirit of the Gypsies really shines through.

Rebecca Diaz is perfect as Inez, the voluptuous Gypsy Queen. She is overflowing with confidence and sexuality and owns the stage whenever she is on it.

Macia McGeorge portrays Ramon with controlled and calculated malevolence. Ramon operates under a sense of righteousness in his evildoings, and McGeorge infuses a quality of grace into an otherwise detestable character. McGeorge’s portrayal is such that you can sympathize with him even at his worst.

Seth Trucks as Don Alejandro maximizes his minimal stage time with a very heartfelt and moving performance. In a dual role, he is also half of one of the most exciting live sword duels I have witnessed. All of the fight scenes were well-choreographed (Michael Engelmann) and well-executed.

The charismatic youth actors Martin Farjado (Young Diego), Mia Alessandra (Young Luisa), and Miguelangel Cubillos (Young Ramon) look so natural on stage. Their professionalism is remarkable and their joy in the finale was contagious.

I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of comedic elements contained in this show. Tommy Paduano as Sergeant Garcia was hilarious, and many little humorous bits and witty quips are peppered throughout the show, bringing a bit of levity to the seriousness of the struggle of the peasants looking to Zorro to liberate them.

Lito Becerra does simply phenomenal job as “the man behind the mask,” the famous trickster, El Zorro. Performing backflips and one-handed cartwheels, Becerra is every bit as nimble and indeed fox-like as his nickname, “El Zorro” suggests. His aerial acrobatics are thrilling and graceful. The beautiful stunts that he performs on the Cirque-de-Soleil-like silks were choreographed by Sebastian Gil, who along with Javier Valle fills out the trio of synchronized aerialists.

Luisa, played by Shalia Sakona, goes through an evolution onstage as her character undergoes a number of trials. Sakona really displays her skills in the song and dance duets with Becerra.

Overall, I love the way all of the different relationships are portrayed. This musical is ultimately about love: between friends, between family members, between couples, and between communities, and I walked out of the play feeling that love.

Zorro the Musical has four performances left: Friday, April 13 at 8pm; Saturday, April 14 at 2pm and 8pm, and the final show on Sunday, April 15, at 2pm. Tickets for the shows can be purchased online through or through, or by phone at 800-838-3006.

Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE 2nd Ave, Miami Shores, FL 33138

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

New Music Review: U2 - Songs of Experience

I’ve tried to avoid reading too much or listening to too many interviews about the album so that I could form an opinion based on the work and my U2 knowledge alone without having my thoughts being influenced by the words of others.

Therefore, what follows is merely my interpretation and impressions from listening to Songs of Experience armed with nothing more than the lyrics book, the liner song credits (I didn’t read the explanations), and my past knowledge of U2.

It’s obvious that the title is at very least a nod to poet William Blake, who penned Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, two poetry collections published first in 1789 and 1794, respectively, then later bound and published together as Songs of Innocence and Experience. Like Blake’s poems, U2’s Songs of Innocence and Experience refer to one another.

Three of the Songs of Experience directly bite from the corresponding album: "13 (There is a Light)" seems almost to be a reprise from the earlier "Song for Someone." The song does become more reflective and looks inward, a theme that seems to run through this new album. It’s as if, in seeking to write legacy songs to leave for the future, Bono seems to be penning lyrics to the past.

"Lights of Home" uses the bridge from "Iris," an interesting choice since the Innocence song is about Bono’s deceased mother and the Experience song seems to be about the “rebirth” he experienced after his near-fatal bike accident in November of 2014 - which came four days after the jet on which he was traveling lost a rear door - (“I shouldn’t be here ‘cause I should be dead”) *a moment of silence for thanks to whomsoever spared him*

"American Soul" takes directly from "Volcano" in both lyrics and music, with maybe a little throwback to "Get On Your Boots" with the drum roll transitions and perhaps a soupçon of "Vertigo" in the guitar.

"Red Flag Day" is perhaps the most subtle reference to one of the Songs of Innocence, touching on the subject of breaking waves, corresponding to "Every Breaking Wave."

The band has lost none of its political fervor, as clearly evinced on "Red Flag Day." It starts off as a possible love song, but the bridge of the song brings to mind vivid pictures of Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed ashore when his family was trying to escape Syria. But the striking line, “Not even news today, so many lost to the sea last night,” makes it hit even harder. That child was the one we heard about, but the many Syrian refugees (and refugees of all kinds) that are lost to the sea trying to find sanctuary don’t even make the radar. And there is an ironic criticism in the following line, “One word that the sea can’t say is ‘no’” – referring, it seems, to the many countries, the United States in particular, who did say “NO” to these people.

Upon first listen, "Red Flag Day" stood out as the superior song, infectious and riveting. Vocally, Bono soars on this track; Adam’s bassline carries the verses and Larry’s drums dominate the chorus, and Edge’s backing vocals – I’m always astounded by the beauty of his voice – are the final piece that make this song perfect.

From the first note, "The Little Things That Give You Away" gives itself away – it is a song so poignant that it sounds like a punch to the heart. It’s an ode to every one-sided relationship, where the other half just stops listening and communication ceases (“the words you cannot say / Your big mouth in the way”). It’s the point in life where you finally have to admit when something is over and let go.

The second half of the song seems to be explaining the “why”; from “sometimes,” the lyrics take on a more introspective and personal bent, describing the personal struggle that everyone experiences at least once in their life – anxiety, doubt, fear, grief. (“Sometimes, I’m full of anger and grieving / So far away from believing / That any sun will reappear”) Between Innocence and Experience, both The Edge and Larry lost their fathers – Larry’s father passed away days before the Innocence + Experience Tour was to begin in 2015. No doubt these losses brought back memories of Bono’s own father, whose loss inspired “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own.”

Sonically, the song opens with Larry’s slow drum beat. When the “sometimes” part begins, the piano comes in and then Edge’s rapid-fire guitar and Larry’s drums combine to give this song a slow crescendo of fast notes ending in a plaintive word and sorrowful piano note.

Any speculation as to Bono’s vocal abilities or any decline thereof are assuaged on that and the following track: “Landlady” is clearly a sort of love letter to Ali – and, as an extension, I’m sure, to all the U2 wives – for holding down the fort while he / they are on the road. “Landlady” sonically hearkens back and offers a touch of the feeling from The Unforgettable Fire’s “Promenade” – just a sense of ascending. I love the line, “I’ll never know, never know what starving poets meant / ‘Cause when I was broke, it was you who always paid the rent.” There’s a hint of Sinatra in the vocals as well.

"Summer of Love" is a funky little number that floats along entirely on Adam’s bass track, and the shaker sashay and Edge’s exotic flamenco-sounding guitar calls up a sense of summer while slipping in a little dark material. Lady Gaga provides some backing vocals on this airy delight.

"The Showman (Little More Better)" is a rather fun, tongue-in-cheek song with Bono calling himself (presumably) out as a caricature. I feel like it hearkens back to the days when he became The Fly – “I lie for a living, I love to let on / But you make it true when you sing along.” It sounds like a reference to the whole megalomania circus that was The Zoo Tour, and how Bono pretending to be a huge rock star sort of re-launched U2 as a huge rock band.

"You’re the Best Thing About Me," released as the first single, is a another classic example of U2’s playfulness. It’s unclear whether its meant to be about his wife or his children, but maybe it’s both. Again, he seems to address himself at the end (“I can see you love her loudly / when she needs you quietly”). The biggest standout to me is the powerhouse of drums.

Originally, the Auto-Tune on "Love is All We Have Left" grated on my nerves, but after a few listens it became less intrusive and, thematically, it’s a very apt song to open this collection.

"Get Out Of Your Own Way" segues into "American Soul" with Kendrick Lamar reciting the gospel according to U2, and while the songs can both be interpreted to be advice given from one person to another (or to himself) they are clearly also dedicated to the American people and in direct criticism of the current political regime. The same goes for “The Blackout,” and this time when Bono references a “big mouth,” we know it’s not his own he’s referring to. "American Soul" puts on display the hypocrisy of the politicians that claim America is a Christian nation with the witty line: “A country to receive us / Will you be our sanctuary / Refu-Jesus”?

“The Blackout,” despite being a politically-charged song about the end of the world (“Is this an extinction event we see?”) is sonically a proper party dance song with its Achtung-Baby reminiscent guitars and funky bass. The chorus is an amazing thrash-about time that is the signature move of Jacknife Lee, who produced this track and about half of the album. U2 has become very schooled over the years in cutting the sour with the sweet.

Gracing the album cover is Bono’s elder son and Edge’s youngest daughter, and presumably Songs of Experience was intended to pass on advice from a place of experience to the younger generation. In “Love is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way,” while it certainly sounds like it could be fatherly advice, the lyrics read like a letter to Bono’s younger self (“So young to be the words of your own song / I know the rage in you is strong / Write a world where we can belong / To each other and sing it like no other”). So much of U2’s earliest work was full of indignation and outrage. Their work still expresses their discontent with the atrocities of the world, but they have learned to express it more artfully. The anger is still there, but it’s been channeled in a nonviolent fashion.

** from the deluxe album**

Recalling the sound from The Joshua Tree era, the very personal "Book Of Your Heart" which addresses the marital bond, ends with a universal thought: “Love is what we choose to do.” Although on the surface, it could be speaking to love being a verb rather than a noun: the notion that a couple needs to actively work to remain together. But on the whole of the album, it has the implication that our actions create love in this world; we just have to choose the right ones.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

New Music Review: Alex Cuba - Lo Único Constante

I’ve been a fan of Alex Cuba’s music since 2006, when my admiration for Jason Mraz’s music led me by delightful chance to Alex’s world. I’ve followed his career since then and have watched with pleasure as he explored new frontiers and was rewarded by the industry as well as his fans. Being well-versed in his musical career, I can say that his 6th studio album Lo Único Constante (The Only Constant) is a bit of a misnomer: in this album there are many constants: Alex’s insightful lyrics and his pervasive sense of faith, his steadfast optimism and his pioneer spirit, and his skillful musical arrangement accompanied by his decadent voice.

But really, “Lo Único Constante,” as Spanish-speakers will recognize, is a truncation of a longer quote – “lo único constante es el cambio” – the only constant is change. I think this title is meant to hint to this truth but also to pay respect to that in life (both objectively and his own, subjectively) which has remained unchanged.

In the liner notes of the booklet, Alex prefaces the lyrics of each song with his own explanation, offering you a glimpse into the thoughtfulness that went behind the writing of each song.

The album takes a back-to-basics approach, straying from the electric, opting instead for orchestral string arrangements on several songs. One song gets stripped all the way down to acapella – a first for Alex on record: the beautiful “Piedad de Mi.” This is a percussive album, listing six different instruments in the family, not including the acapella “percussion”. Alex has shown his love for drums in previous albums – Aqua del Pozo devoted a song to one instrument / drummer in “Y Que Bongo,” and this time around, Alex shares his preference for the “Chekere,” an instrument of West African origin consisting of a hollow gourd surrounded by a mesh of beads which are manipulated to produce their sounds. They are similar to but distinct from and more flexible than maracas in the sounds they make.

Alex includes an English-language track on this album – the fourth time in a row he’s sung at least one track in English on an album. “Look What You Started” is the only song on Lo Único Constante not written entirely by Alex, as opposed to his largely collaborative previous album, Healer. Language barriers have never been a problem with Alex’s songs, however. He weaves emotion into them all that mirror the lyrics, punctuating them in a way that the meaning of the song is apparent regardless of what language you speak. The flamenco guitars on Lagrimas Del Que Llora (Tears of the One Who Cries) describe the sadness that Alex declares we need to abandon in this hopeful final note.

You can also check out another first for Alex Cuba – Alex translates his “Todas Las Cabezas Estan Locas” to French – “Dans La Folie De L'amour” – and sings it for the single.

Lo Único Constante is available from:
Alex Cuba's Official Website

Listen to Alex Cuba on Spotify and Pandora.

Follow Alex Cuba on:
YouTube Channel
iamalexcuba on Snapchat

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

New Film Review - Let's Play Two

Let’s Play Two, the baseball-themed Pearl Jam documentary film by Danny Clinch opened in select theatres throughout the globe this weekend. Last night, I caught it at Cinemark Paradise 24 in Davie, FL with two of the people I attended my first Pearl Jam concert with last April (which was followed by my second the night after). Between the three of us, there was laughter, tears, and squeals of delight.

I am a relative newcomer to Pearl Jam fandom, but I am a quick study and went from zero to enthusiast in a very short time. It was inevitable that I was going to see this film, but I had additional impetus to check it out.

For me, the moment that Steve Gleason appeared was the zenith of the film, because I came to Pearl Jam by way of him. I had always been on the outside of the band, having somehow formed an incorrect impression of what their music was like and mistakenly thinking it wasn’t my thing. In October of 2013, when Gleason interviewed the band in anticipation of the release of Lightning Bolt, I watched my own misconceptions being shattered as these five amazing and humble guys tackled Gleason’s questions with honesty and real thought. The music from the companion piece from ESPN about Gleason’s bond with Pearl Jam stuck with me (after watching the piece at least 10 times in a couple of days, I imagine it would) and I preordered Lightning Bolt with the thought that Gleason hadn’t steered me wrong musically yet.

I am so glad he steered me to Pearl Jam.

This documentary is part concert, part baseball, and Clinch paired together the baseball segments with the songs in such an appropriate way that it almost felt like the songs were written to score the film. There were times during the concert portion of the film that I lost space and time and I truly felt that I was at a Pearl Jam show as opposed to sitting in a recliner at a movie theatre. Pearl Jam puts on an impassioned show and the Wrigley Field shows were hardly an exception.

Also explored is Eddie Vedder’s connection to Chicago, as he was born and raised there. Clinch juxtaposes Pearl Jam’s first performance at the Metro 25 years prior – and incorporates film of that show – with the spectacle that the Wrigley shows were. Pearl Jam went from opening act to having rooftop “freeloaders” watching their show from outside of the sold-out 41,000+ stadium capacity.

The band’s enthusiasm for music and Vedder’s enthusiasm for baseball are both unchanged.

Even for someone who isn’t particularly interested in baseball, such as myself, it is difficult to watch this film and not get caught up in the childlike glee Vedder feels for baseball and his beloved Cubs. It’s one thing seeing him sport the gear and sing the anthem he wrote for them – at the request of Ernie Banks, Vedder penned “All The Way” in 2007. (Sadly, Banks did not live to see the song lyrics come to fruition, but he did get to stand onstage with Pearl Jam in Wrigley Field in 2013 when they performed it. Incidentally, "let's play two" was Banks's catch phrase.) It’s quite another to watch a 28-year-old Vedder sniffing a strip of discarded stadium sod and the present-day man getting a beer shower when the Cubs advanced to the finals or throwing himself on home plate in joy when they won the World Series on November 2, 2016.

This film is an example of how fandom makes ordinary places sacred. It explores the deep connections between life, music, and sports, and the Venn Diagram intersection where they all meet is the focus of this documentary.

If I’ve come away with only two things from this film, they are that I want to go to Wrigley Field and see a Cubs game (and visit Murphy’s Bleachers across the street) and that I REALLY want to see Pearl Jam in concert again.

After the show, we spoke with a few fellow moviegoers and we all had the same post-concert feeling of brotherhood. This film is more than just a movie – this is immersive.

Let’s Play Two will be released on digital disc on November 17, 2017. To see the film in a theatre near you before then, check for local screenings.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Live Theatre Review - Evening Star Productions's Oleanna

Evening Star Productions opens David Mamet’s Oleanna this weekend at Sol Theatre in Boca Raton, Florida. Director Rosalie Grant stages another successful psychological hit.

Without giving away too many spoilery details, I can say that the actors beautifully illustrated a sliding scale power shift. Sara Grant’s Carol went from mousy to domineering and Todd Bruno took John from self-assured to broken-spirited, but the transition is subtle and the illusion is aided by their hairstyles and clothing choices. But just when it appears that the character’s personality was summed up, a new facet was revealed and the situation became more complex and clouded and opened up a labyrinth of questions.

We discussed the possibilities on the way home and then some for 3 hours after the show, and the next morning it was still on our minds.

This is a three-act, one-setting, two-actor play, so much importance is placed on the nuances of the characters. Subtlety is everything. Grant spoke volumes with one exaggerated eyeroll or the way she perched on a chair or glided across the room.

Bruno similarly purveyed so much with subtext: his mouth was delivering a set of lines that told us about his character while his body delivered a separate set with every telephone call that John took. In fact, it wasn’t until halfway through the third act that it occurred to me that Bruno wasn’t actually on a telephone call with another party – his acting, however, brought that disembodied other party into the show as well, and the other side of the telephone conversations were fully credible.

The chemistry between the two was such that they were able to smooth out the staccato lines that Mamet scripted.

This play is extremely relevant in today’s world. We are confronted daily with so many cases of abuse of power – the news is resplendent with the idea of privilege: what it is, what it does, what it means for those who have or don’t have it. Oleanna doesn’t answer any of these questions, but rather poses them and forces the audience members to begin to try to answer those questions by themselves – and for themselves.

Oleanna runs at Sol Theatre from September 21, 2017 – October 8, 2017.

Tickets are $30 / $20 for students and seniors.

Thursdays - Saturdays @ 8pm
Sunday @ 2pm
through October 8

All performances are at Sol Theatre, 3333 N. Federal Hwy, Boca Raton, FL 33431

photos by Carol Kassie

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Live Theatre Review - Sol Children Theatre's Alice in Wonderland


Before I begin my review of Sol Children Theatre’s Alice in Wonderland, I need to give a little background:

I didn’t always love Alice in Wonderland. In fact, for a long time, I disliked it. I saw a couple of versions of it as a child that were varying degrees of weird, disturbing, confusing, and frightening. Therefore, it wasn’t until I was in high school that I saw Disney’s animated Alice (my English class watched the film in lieu of reading the book – thanks Texas education!) and fell madly – if you’ll pardon the pun - in love with the story, particularly with the Mad Tea Party.

In college, we studied Alice in one of the many literature classes I took which culminated in my English degree, but I hadn’t re-read the story since then (and I was rather unsure as to whether I had read the text in its entirety then. I had a LOT of reading for my classes. Stuff got skimmed. I have been making the effort to revisit the works that got less of my time in college, and this show was the perfect occasion to revisit Alice).

Having attended many Sol shows and knowing what kind of quality goes into them and armed with my deep love of Alice and my refreshed knowledge of the text – I finished the reread a few hours before show time – I had high hopes for this production.

My hopes were exceeded.

Even with a cast of 22 – very large for a Sol production, there was not a superfluous character. This is the first show that I’ve seen that does not have at least one adult actor, but the poise and professionalism of these child actors makes one forget that they are all school-aged.

The White Rabbit (Noah Fineman) emcees the play. He provides the necessary direction for Alice and sets up the framework for the show.

Eden Wexler opens the play as the iconic Alice. Mandy Feuerman takes on Alice in Act 2, and Zoe Alarcon plays Act 3 Alice, and Jamie Feuerman plays Real World Alice. Each actor delivers a full performance, each endowing Alice with her signature feistiness and sense of wonder.

The Tiger Lily (Olivia Shiver), the Rose (Violet Zeiders), and the Caterpillar (Faith Alfieri) are wonderfully snide in their encounters with Alice, being both helpful and not at all helpful simultaneously.

Samantha Mascaro and Kimberly Wilkinson portray the Cheshire Cat. Having two actors playing the Cheshire Cat solves some obvious staging problems for a cat who disappears at will. These two Cats were mesmerizing.

Tweedle Dum (Natalie Macador) and Tweedle Dee’s (Isabella Welch) recital of the Walrus and the Carpenter is fun and imaginative and another creative way to lose neither the exposition nor the viewer’s attention.

Also of note is the breathtaking way that Jabberwocky is incorporated into the work. To say anything more I fear would spoil what was one of the most pleasant surprises of the show and beautifully in keeping with an aspect of the original text.

As Alice is geared toward a younger audience but engaging and enjoyable for all ages, I was pleased with the ingenious ways of keeping the original texts of these beautiful poems while still keeping the audience engaged.

Chronology of the text is not adhered to – but after all, this is Wonderland and one would not expect to stand on convention. Due to time and space constraints, as well as fanciful events being translated to real life without a Walt Disney budget, some things were rearranged to ease the flow of the production. A very clever device is employed to explain these changes (and perhaps to appeal to the purists, whether they be text, animated Disney, or live-action lovers).

The most crucial element for me would be the Mad Tea Party – after all, it was this segment of Disney’s animated silliness that cemented me as a lover of Alice in Wonderland. I felt like the tea party could make or break this performance for me.

It. Was. Excellent!

I don’t want to give anything away, but The Mad Hatter (Ava Cavasos), The March Hare (Kylie Lawrence), and the Doormouse (Zoe Wexler) remain remarkably in character as the most ridiculous action takes place. Alice, too, should be praised for her ability to act and react to the script and not to the scene.

Cavasos’s Mad Hatter is neither Ed Wynne nor Johnny Depp. Rather, she brings her own charm and madness to the character and is a more accurate reflection of Carroll’s original vision than either of the former. I could watch her as the Mad Hatter all day. Congratulations and thank you for doing beautiful justice to one of my all-time favorite characters!

The Royal Cards (Amalia Hasselman, Alan Hasselman, Violet Zeiders, and Olivia Shiver) play a vital comedic role.

Rylee Siegel is poised and elegant as the Red Queen, Emma Lawrence is hilariously rumpled and frazzled as the White Queen. Brooke Hall expertly plays the Queen of Hearts with a deranged, faraway look in her eye, mercilessly sentencing all she encounters with a beheading. Addison Wexler is a comic treasure as the henpecked King of Hearts. Celia Roberts is a hilarious Duchess channeling rage and madness as well as contempt and apathy.

The play is necessarily wordy, and the actors deliver a tremendous number of lines, often at a rapid pace. Everyone handles their lines swiftly and eloquently.

I have to take a moment to praise set design (Ardean Landhuis and Kate McVay), costume (MJ Baum and Briana Earhart), and make-up (Netta Nicosia). Alice is such a magical story with such a wide variety of interpretations (after all, the text debuted in 1865 and the story has been translated from the page and reimagined for more than a century-and-a-half!) that these three elements are the things that make each new vision of Alice unique. These artistic expressions are so beautiful of their own accord and they only enhance the experience.

Whatever your experience with Alice is, I urge you to come out and see what this company has accomplished. In a black box theatre in about one hour, these youth bring to life a fanciful world full of beloved characters with the grace of pros.

Alice in Wonderland is adapted by Seth Trucks and directed by Trucks and Savannah Rootes. Alice runs from August 10 – 20 at Sol Theatre before moving to Delray Beach Children’s Garden for three special Sunset Garden Performances.

Sol Theatre is a 501(c)(3) corporation that relies on generous donors to continue to carry out its mission of bringing affordable, quality theatre to South Florida and to making theatre accessible and exciting to young people and youth actors. If this production is indicative of Sol's work, then the money invested in this non-profit is well-spent.

Alice in Wonderland
By Lewis Carroll, adapted by Seth Trucks
August 10-20
Tickets: $20/$15 for Juniors (11 and under)
For Tickets: 561-447-8829 /
Performances: Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 7 pm / Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm
Sol Theatre
3333 North Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL 33431

August 24-26
Tickets: $20
For Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets
Performances: Sunset performances Garden Gate to open at 7pm
Delray Beach Children’s Garden
137 SW 2nd Ave
Delray Beach, FL 33444 (US)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Live Theatre Review - Outre Theatre Company's 1984


When it was written in 1949, the dystopian world depicted in George Orwell’s 1984 may have seemed far-fetched, but in 2017, every day it seems a little more prophetic. Therefore, Outre Theatre Company’s choice to stage 1984, adapted by Andrew White is both timely and apropos for their inaugural production in its new space at the Pompano Beach Cultural Arts Center.

The stage is simple in terms of set and props – the most eye-catching device are the numerous propaganda posters and photos of “Big Brother.” The modest set allows the actors to use their craft to bring the story to life without relying overmuch on physical things. The technical crew works swiftly and quietly in the background, making transitioning from one scene or setting to another seamless with little distraction.

Director Skye Whitcomb handles troublesome staging hurdles aptly by incorporating a giant screen projecting film to depict flashbacks, internal dialogue, sensitive scenes of sex and violence, and other elements that would be too difficult to portray given the time and space limitations of the stage. The effect is brilliant and keeps the production out of the adults-only realm. The scenes of sex and violence portrayed are tasteful and not too frightening, but the overall tension is palpable.

Frequent costume changes allow the sparse cast to multiply in size as several actors portray secondary characters.

Murphy Hayes shines as Charrington. His manner is charming and invites other characters to open up to him. He is an unassuming, comfortable person to confide in. Peter Wayne Galman brings an austerity to O’Brien in his speech but moreso in just his presence. His costume is a perfect match for his character.

Seth Trucks does an excellent job as Winston. He is unmoved by the 2 Minute’s Hate and portrays obvious distaste for the morbid practices of the party that even children enjoy. Winston’s secretive behavior and curiosity for things that Party members have denounced isolates him from the world he lives in.

When he encounters Julia (Jennipher Murphy) in a special way, suddenly things start to change for Winston. Her rebellious spirit awakens something within him. He thinks he has found a kindred soul and he professes his love to her, but he soon learns that no one is as they seem. Julia’s disregard for rules is self-serving; Murphy gets across Julia’s flippant nature and egocentricity.

With regards the other workers at the Ministry of Truth: Meredith Bartmon is also very convincing as the Party die-hard, Syme. Joey De La Rua (Parsons), Michael Conner (Ampleforth), and Daryl Patrice (Tillotson) provide some much-needed comic relief, but their ultimate fates show their range as actors.

1984 opened on July 13 and runs through July 30. The final four shows are as follows:

Thursday, July 27 @ 8pm
Friday, July 28 @ 8pm
Saturday, July 29 @ 8pm
Sunday, July 30 @ 2pm

Doors open 1 hour before showtime

All shows are at the Pompano Beach Cultural Arts Center, 50 SW 1st Ave, Pompano Beach, FL 33060.

Tickets are as follows: Adults $39 - Students and Industry $19 and can be purchased online or at the Box Office. Make sure to get them fast before they sell out!

Outre Theatre Company is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization and relies on sponsorship from private benefactors and theatregoers. Please help to support them and keep local theatre alive!
All photos (c) 2017 by Shannon Ouellette