Saturday, August 6, 2016

Live Theatre Review: Evening Star Production's A Midsummer Night's Dream

Last night I attended Evening Star Production’s opening night presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Sol Theatre. Adapted and directed by Seth Trucks, it is the inaugural show in Sol’s new Shakespeare Initiative, a seed that was planted two years ago and has been lovingly cared for in minute detail, culminating in this vibrant offering to the theatre gods.

This show was initially intended to be directed by the late Laura Ruchala, whose life was tragically cut short just after her 36th birthday. Trucks, in his pre-show oration last night, advised that in one of the last conversations he had with Ruchala they discussed how Shakespeare lends itself to innovation and interpretation and how it should be adapted and retold in new and exciting ways. The first show I attended at Sol Theatre was Ruchala’s adaptation of The Comedy of Errors – starring Trucks as the twin Antipholus’ - which was creative and imaginative, literally out-of-the-box thinking. Ruchala passed away just before her show’s run began and the mantle to carry on the Shakespeare Initiative fell to Trucks. From what I saw of Ruchala’s directorial vision in The Comedy of Errors, what he has done with it would have pleased her endlessly.

This production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is described by Trucks as Shakespeare done in the style of a John Hughes film. Enter the 80s.

It is set in Athens High School, and even the lobby of Sol Theatre is dressed for the occasion. The guest book that is usually out front has been replaced by a notebook paper “Slam Book” in which theatregoers can write their thoughts about the show. The program is set up similar to a yearbook. No detail has been overlooked.

As did The Comedy of Errors, Midsummer begins in an external story and then magically slips into Shakespeare’s world. This play goes farther still with a beautifully shot expositive video that sets up the pre-Shakespearean scene.

Though the play is a comedy and at times this production is farcical and it is absolutely funny, it also is a very deep and moving production, and the youth cast draws emotions beautifully. You can feel the lovers’ hearts breaking when spurned by their respective suitors. You can feel the jealous ire aroused in the fight between Hermia (Emma Lawrence) and Helena (Chloe Ward) and the territorialism of Demetrius (Ryan Siegel) and Lysandra (Kayla Asouti). The angst of the teenage condition is expertly portrayed in Francis Flute (Isabella Welch) and Robin Goodfellow, better known as Puck (Francis Alfieri). Puck’s orchestrations of the emotions of the Athenians is also very reflective of the high school experience.

The Misfits are wonderful comic relief in their play-within-the-play: the tremulous Wall / Kim Snout (Kate Finkelstein), the insecure Lion / Snug (Noah Fineman), the anarchist Moon / Robin Starvling (Natalie Macadar) the apathetic Thisbe / Francis Flute (Welch), and the over-the-top-enthusiastic Pyramus / Nikki Bottom (Rylee Siegel), handled by their poor, put-upon stage manager, Penny Quince (Emma McAvoy). Their production meetings are very funny, but their execution of Pyramus and Thisbe is side-splitting.

I have to pay tribute to the gorgeous choreography by Sara Grant, beautifully executed by the Fairies: Peaseblossom (Brooke Hall), Cobweb (Zoe Alarcon), Moth (Sami Mascaro) and the adorable little aptly-named Mustardseed (Eden Wexler). The fairies (and their dancing) play such an important part in bringing the magic of this production to light. Their performance was extremely moving.

Also well-choreographed is the Benny-Hill type chase scene that pays homage to Ruchala’s Comedy.

The only adult cast members have dual roles – Cindy Thagard plays both Hermia’s mother and Titania, and Justin Schneyer plays Hermia’s father and Oberon. The original play is changed so that the dual-role element is meant to be apparent, the conflict between the two pairs carrying over from the pre-Shakespearean world to the fairyland.

I have to note how beautifully the elements of same-sex relationships are completely glossed over, no attention brought to them. As they should be.

The final, living, breathing member of the cast is the set itself, which is painstakingly dedicated to serving the play. Every little element is perfectly placed so that the transition from location to location is not only believable but enthusiastically brought. To say more would be to give too much away, but I do have to praise Kate McVay’s scenic art because when the play was over, I was compelled to go and inspect the painted rug for about five minutes for its utter beauty.

Costume, particularly in a play set in the 80s, is also an important element. Thankfully, these youth were spared from some of the more hideous choices 80s kids made, but side ponytails, suspenders, headbands, leotards, and sweater vests all made an appearance. The Philostrates (Kylie Lawrence, Megan Mascaro, and Zoe Wexler) double as theatre ushers in their Girl Scout uniforms.

As this blog originated as a music blog, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the perfect music choices that are incorporated throughout the show. Songs from A-ha, The Police, Cyndi Lauper, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, Star Wars, Wham!, and OMD are not only played but expertly curated into the show. “Careless Whisper” is hilariously utilized. The scene where “In Your Eyes” plays had me literally weeping with the beauty of it all. “Take on Me” was used so cleverly that I fear an element of song choice might be lost on some audience members falling too far outside of the bubble of the 80s. But when “And She Was” played, I was stunned. Clearly as much loving care was used in selecting the soundtrack as was in adapting the play itself.

Every person who had a hand in bringing this beautiful work to life should be proud of what they have accomplished. It was worth the year’s wait to see what this play has become.

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. One such recent donation was an upgrade of seating in the theatre, so now everyone can sit in comfort as they enjoy this midsummer night’s dream.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
August 5 – 21
Tickets: $20/$10 for Students
For Tickets: 561-447-8829 /
Performances: Friday & Saturday at 8 pm / Sunday at 2 pm
Sol Theatre
3333 North Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL 33431

photos by Murphy Hayes

Friday, June 17, 2016

Live Theatre Review: Evening Star Production's Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised)

Evening Star Productions presents The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)[revised], directed by Savannah Rootes (a "Solster" in her directorial debut).

Edward Scott, Seth Trucks, and Alex Weiss take on the ambitious task of presenting all 37 of the Bard's plays in under 2 hours - and they succeed with gusto! Granted, some of the plays are seriously abridged, but the manner in which this is accomplished will have you gasping for breath! Skip the abs workout and see this show with the same results!

The trio makes the most out of the small space of the theatre and some limited props to represent over 1000 characters in 97 minutes. The presentation of the tragedies is as funny as that of the comedies, and the histories are presented in a fresh, clever, and surprisingly apt way.

Expect to participate, but no prior knowledge of Shakespeare is necessary to enjoy the show (although during the presentation of the comedies, a little familiarity with the works is helpful - the more knowledge of the comedies you have, the more you'll get the subtle jokes, but the obvious ones are plentiful enough for someone with even zero knowledge of the plays.)

Complete Works sets out to demonstrate that Shakespeare is not just for the mature and the literati - everyone at every level and every age can enjoy Shakespeare. And anyone who attends this riotous play is sure to walk away with a fresh appreciation of the Bard.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)[revised] will run from June 17 – 26 at Sol Theatre in Boca Raton, FL. Tickets are $15 and $10 for students. Group rates are also available. Tickets are on sale now, and can be purchased by calling 561-447-8829 or online at Evening Star Productions.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

New Music Review: Alex Cuba - Healer

Even the most monolingual of listeners will understand two things from Alex Cuba’s Healer: joy and love.

Healer is Alex’s 5th studio album, removed from his first by three Latin Grammys, two Junos, and a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Latin Pop Album.

The album clearly states its theme with the opening track, “Vale Todo” (“Anything Goes”) – differences are to be celebrated, especially in love. The song title can be translated more literally to mean “everything is worthy,” and it is this mindset that charges the songs on this aptly named album.

In contrast to his last album, Ruido En El Sistema, which was uncharacteristically mellow-towards-melancholy, Healer remains upbeat and toe-tappingly quick throughout 10 of its 12 tracks. “Ni Forma Ni Colores,” arguably one of the best tracks on the album, is impossible to sit still through, with both the sound and the sentiment ample reason to dance in joy.

One of the remainder songs is possibly the best showcase of Alex’s vocal strength – the beautiful confessional ballad “Contigo” features very subdued instruments and is carried entirely by his powerful croon.

The crown jewel, though, has to be “Sarah,” the lovely ode to Alex’s wife which contains one of the loveliest ideas: “in you, I found everything, and nothing is lost / missing.”

The album is populated with 5 bilingual tracks, each featuring one of 5 talents: David Myles, Alejandra Ribera, Kuba Oms, Ron Sexsmith, and Anya Marina (all but the latter of whom are fellow Canadians). Ron Sexsmith appears on Alex’s first album on “Lo Mismo Que Yo (If Only).”

Healer was crowd-funded on PledgeMusic beginning in November of 2014, and released on March 31, 2015, with a general release one week later. Alex, who was born in Artemisa, Cuba, but makes his home in Smithers, British Columbia, used the crowd-sourcing platform to simultaneously raise funds for SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, an organization which is focused on sustainability of the wild salmon ecosystem in BC, Canada.

Healer won a Latin Grammy for Best Singer-Songwriter Album in 2015, and was nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award in the Best Latin Pop Album category.

Alex’s well-received message is that in love, everything is important and anything goes.

Alex is currently working on a documentary called The Cuban Bus, to be released at a soon-to-be announced future date.

The music video for “Sarah” is available here.

Healer is available from:
Alex Cuba's Official Website
Amazon (stream with Prime)

Listen to Alex Cuba on Spotify and Pandora.

Follow Alex Cuba on:
iamalexcuba on Snapchat

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Live Theatre Review: Evening Star Production's The Rocky Horror Show

If you live under a rock like I do and you’ve never seen Rocky Horror Show before, then the Evening Star Production at Infinite Abyss Theatre directed by Rosalie Grant is the production to see. You will be marked a virgin (a red lipstick V on your forehead) and you will be “initiated” (don’t worry, it was fun and no one bothers your bits) before the show can begin.

This production is a steampunk take on things, which means enviably beautiful costumes, especially Columbia (Ireland Glennon) and Magenta (Cindy Thagard) and cogwheel décor on the set (look at the gorgeous clock behind the couch!)

If there is a collective term to describe the cast, it’s SEXY. Every actor exudes beauty and confidence and just draws you in to their den of iniquity.

I won’t give up too much about the production details (even if you’re not a Virgin, you should check out the staging for yourself), but listen carefully when Riff Raff (Christian Cooper) sings – it’s beautiful. Pay close attention to Frank-n-Furter’s (Dominick J. Daniel) entrance and first scene – he moves with the elegance of Eddie Izzard in his seriously hot boots. Don’t be afraid to glance around at the other actors when one is speaking or you’ll miss great little background details – especially when the action is on the screen. Don’t miss the narrator’s (Seth Trucks) time on the couch.

I will say that this show is NC-17 : NOT for kids or for the sexually feint at heart. If you’re prudish, you might want to see a different show - this one gets raunchy, but it’s tastefully handled.

Make sure you pick up a prop bag from concessions (no outside props are allowed, please). Don’t worry, fellow Virgins – instructions on when to use the props are printed in your program. Better still, spend the extra $10 for the VIP seating and the prop bag is included, you get guaranteed front-row seating, and you will be allowed to dance the Time Warp onstage with the cast at the end of the show.

The Rocky Horror Show runs from May 12 – 28, with special midnight shows on the 14th and the 21st. Thursday, Friday & Saturday shows are at 8 PM. Tickets are $35 and $45 for VIP (limited to 14 a night!)

“Freaky, funky costumes and audience callbacks encouraged!”

The Abyss Stage & Studio, 2304 N Dixie Hwy, Wilton Manors, Florida 33305

Tickets available at the at

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Graphic design by Murphy Hayes