Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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

*THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR THIS PRODUCTION OF 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 / www.solchildren.org
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

*THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR 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

Monday, May 1, 2017

Live Theatre Review - Evening Star Production's Waiting for Godot

*THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR WAITING FOR GODOT*

Director Rosalie Grant and Evening Star Productions bring theatre of the absurd to Sol Theatre with Samuel Beckett’s remarkable work, Waiting for Godot.

The set was sparse and a beautiful sort of bleak, much mirroring the play itself. The play has only five characters, two of whom perform the titular task of waiting for Godot.

Vladimir, played by Lito Becerra, and Estragon, played by Seth Trucks meet at an undisclosed location near a tree to wait. While they wait, their long relationship unfolds for the audience. Their clothes are tattered and Estragon’s feet suffer from his shoddy boots. Vladimir has health problems tied to his kidneys. Both actors do a tremendous job of selling their maladies. In fact, the physicality of the actors is what sets this play apart from the many performances of it which have come before. The masterful feats of athleticism between them inject comedy into the grim dialogue. The chemistry between Becerra and Trucks is beautiful; Becerra is endearing in Vladimir’s nurturing of his friend and Trucks brings a pathos to Estragon’s dark moods. Their timing as they bounce lines off of each other is impeccable.

The strange duo who come to break up the monotony for Vladimir and Estragon are a mismatched pair. Skye Whitcomb is delightfully despicable as Pozzo, whose fine attire sets him apart from the others. In his company is his slave, Lucky, played by Christopher Mitchell. Again, the nuances of the physical acting of this pair turns what could be a dry play into an engaging performance. Grant must be lauded for her directorial choice and Mitchell must be commended for his endurance.

While some of the bizarre dialogue penned by Beckett is humorous, this cast adds to the humor with their actions and reactions. It is also necessary to mention the way the four of these men portray so much with silence. Some of the most humorous or poignant moments are accomplished with the absence of speech or action. The very stillness evokes the audience reaction. This production is an excellent take on a complex text.

Waiting For Godot runs at Sol Theatre from April 20, 2017 – May 7, 2017.

Tickets are $30 / $20 for students and seniors and are available for the following remaining performances:
Thursday, May 4 @ 8pm
Friday, May 5 @ 8pm
Saturday, May 6 @ 8pm
Sunday, May 7 @ 2pm


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

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.


Photo by Murphy Hayes

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Live Theatre Review - Shakespeare Miami's The Merchant of Venice

**CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MERCHANT OF VENICE**

Shakespeare Miami’s The Merchant of Venice, directed by Colleen Stovall and staged as the 2017 free Shakespeare in the Park production, opened on January 6, 2017, in Mizner Park.

The set is rather simple: twin stairs leading to a balcony, but it is all that is necessary to carry the audience to Venice. The more important element of the staging comes in the beautiful costumes, elaborate and artfully designed by Stovall. The “tiring scene” where Portia (Thiana Berrick) is dressed by her maids is a fantastic tool to educate on the intricacies of women’s fashion and the challenges faced by dressing in that time. Nerissa’s (Alexandra Grunberg) dress is lovely, and the way she navigates the stairs in it is both delicate and fierce.

The suitors for Portia’s hand are all finely arrayed, and the costumes for Shylock (Seth Trucks) and Tubal (Christopher Lam) are vibrant and adhere to the custom of Jews being required to wear red to identify themselves at all times.

Although this play is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, the atmosphere of this production is more serious than comedic. As it addresses the very heavy subject matter of prejudice, race relations, and religious persecution, this production seems to downplay all but the most comedic of elements. David Tetteh-Quarshie is remarkable as the Moroccan prince who vies for Portia’s hand. He and Jair Bula as Aragon, the second suitor, provide two of the true comedic performances. The other two are the Gobbos: Launcelot Gobbo (Christian Cooper) and his father Old Gobbo (Seth Trucks), whose farcical performances elicited laughs as well.

The cross-dressing device, which at one time must have been a source of great amusement, is less humorous in our time as women commonly dress “as men” – in trousers instead of dresses. Kudos to this production for not camping it up with false facial hair and the like when Portia, Nerissa, and Jessica (Devin Tupler) all pose as men in order to get away with something.

Due to the timing within the play, the first half seems a bit long, but the second half speeds through following the brief intermission.

The trial is well-staged, a clear division between loyalties. You love to hate Gratiano (Arturo Sierra) at his treatment of Shylock after the Jew gets his “justice.”

The character of Shylock is well portrayed though this staging – Shylock is not a good person, but that has nothing to do with his faith. The treatment he is dealt from the opening scene to the closing gives fair explanation of why a person could become like him. And when Trucks deals Shylock’s famous speech – “Hath not a Jew eyes?...” sympathy grows for Shylock such that you are disappointed by the “justice” he receives.

Shakespeare Miami wraps up in Mizner tonight at 6:00 then takes the show on the road for the next three weekends:


COCONUT GROVE - The Barnacle Historic State Park JANUARY 13, 14, 15- 2017

PINECREST - Pinecrest Gardens Shakespeare Stage JANUARY 20, 21 & 22- 2017

HOLLYWOOD - The ArtsPark Amphitheater JANUARY 27 & 28- 2017


Come out, enjoy a night of culture with your entire family (but leave the pets at home, please!), and don’t forget to tip your actors. Shakespeare Miami operates off of the donations of its patrons.

From the website: Shakespeare Miami is a regional non-profit theater company dedicated to live performance of the works of William Shakespeare. The mission of Shakespeare Miami is to promote literacy, culture and a passion for the arts through free performances of the works of William Shakespeare.

The Cost of a family attending a cultural event together has become prohibitively expensive for the average family in America. Schools have cut arts programming and field trips to see live performances. Often, the first live theatrical production a family in South Florida attends is a free Shakespeare in the Park Event.