Review: Loving Repeating (Kokandy Productions)

| August 14, 2015

Amanda Giles and Caron Buinis star in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)              
      
Loving Repeating

Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
By Stephen Flaherty (music), Gertrude Stein (lyrics) and Frank Galati (adaptation) 
thru Aug 30 | tickets: $38 | more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

Poignant, romantic and incandescent

  

Emily Goldberg, Amanda Giles, Andrew Lund, George Toles, Jake Morrissy, Maisie Rose, Stephanie Stockstill, Sarah Hayes and Caron Buinis star in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

    
Kokandy Productions presents
    
Loving Repeating

By Stephen Flaherty (music), Gertrude Stein (lyrics) and Frank Galati (adaptation)   

Review by Lauren Whalen 

Kokandy Productions has been doing things right for a long time. So much so that I often want to ask other small theater companies, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” They’ve hit the sweet spot of casting (and retaining) phenomenal talent, using excellent production staff, and producing quality work that intrigues and satisfies. Fresh off its raucous and well-loved hit The Full Monty, Kokandy scales it back with the smaller but equally mighty Loving Repeating. Directed by ensemble member Allison Hendrix, the short but sweet musical love letter to Gertrude Stein is an absolute jewel.

Emily Goldberg and Amanda Giles in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Stein (Caron Buinis) was known for her unique writing style: straddling the line between prose and poetry, she played with language in her keen observations of human behavior. In Loving Repeating, Stein’s brilliant words are adapted by Frank Galati and set to music by Stephen Flaherty. There’s no cohesive story; but a series of lovely vignettes enacted through song, dance and interactive art pieces by a stellar ensemble. Presiding over the action is a cantankerous old Stein, her younger self (Amanda Giles) and her lover Alice B. Toklas (Emily Goldberg). From runaway cows to female intellectuals, everything viewed through Stein’s eyes takes on a sweet sadness and experimental profundity.

Loving Repeating succeeds, where many modern musicals fail, in that it challenges the audience to draw their own conclusions and find their own meanings in Stein’s words. In her director’s note, Hendrix quotes Stein – “if you enjoy it, you understand it” – and encourages patrons to embrace the production at its wonderfully abstract core. Galati, Flaherty and Hendrix all display a deep reverence and unabashed joy in translating Stein’s writing to live theater, a love they gleefully passed on to me during the course of 70 minutes.

Ashley Ann Woods’ dazzling set design is at once grown-up and playful, with several sweet surprises underlying the action. Lighting by Cat Wilson is instrumental in the various moods of the piece, gently guiding the audience without manipulating. Hendrix keeps the story moving without rushing emotional beats, and music director Kory Danielson not only leads a vocally gifted ensemble but also skillfully directs a stellar small orchestra. Andrea Louise Soule’s choreography incorporates a great sense of fun, with sweeping romanticism when appropriate. Stage manager Jessica Forella deserves props for extra-smooth transitions.

Emily Goldberg, Amanda Giles and Caron Buinis star in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) George Toles, Amanda Giles, Sarah Hayes, Andrew Lund, Maisie Rose and Jake Morrissy in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Emily Goldberg, Amanda Giles, Sarah Hayes and Jake Morrissy in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow) George Toles, Andrew Lund, Jake Morrissy, Maisie Rose, Stephanie Stockstill and Sarah Hayes star in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Jake Morrissy, George Toles, Andrew Lund, Stephanie Stockstill, Sarah Hayes and Emily Goldberg in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Any cast would flourish with such a gifted production team at the helm, but Loving Repeating’s ensemble is especially stellar. Standouts include George Toles (whose sweet tenor was so memorable in The Full Monty), Maisie Rose in her Chicago debut, and Stephanie Stockstill, who brings a pretty intelligence to the role of Miss Skeen. Buinis’ Stein is just the right mix of crotchety and vulnerable, making for a compelling narrator. Giles shines as young Gertrude, projecting a coltish awkwardness that eventually refines itself. And as Toklas, Goldberg emanates light from within, graceful and gorgeous from beginning to end.

I long for Loving Repeating to do well in the Chicago theater community. It’s not a populist piece meant to please the masses, but a precious gift from a groundbreaking author brought to light by stunning adaptation, direction and onstage talent. This production is a true labor of love, and should be received as such by anyone who values poetry, poignancy and a moving, breathing painting.

  
Rating: ★★★★
  
   

Loving Repeating continues through August 30th at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 3pm and 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $38, and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online through TheaterWit.org (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at KokandyProductions.com(Running time: 70 minutes without intermission)

Amanda Giles in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Photos by Michael Brosilow 


  

artists

cast

Caron Buinis (Gertrude Stein), Amanda Giles (Young Gertrude), Emily Goldberg (Alice B. Toklas), Sarah Hayes, Andrew Lund, Jake Morrissy, Maisie Rose, Stephanie Stockstill, George Toles (ensemble), Chelsea Morgan, Neil Stratman (swings)

musicians

Kory Danielson (musical director, keyboard), Mike Matlock (reeds), Kyle McCulloug (guitar, banjo, mandolin), Desiree Miller (cello)

behind the scenes

Allison Hendrix (director), Kory Danielson (music director), Andrea Louise Soule (choreographer), Ashley Ann Woods (scenic design), Kate Setzer-Kamphausen (costume design), Cat Wilson (lighting design), Jenna Moran (sound design), Johnny Buranosky (props design), Gordon Granger (technical director), Patrick O’Brien (sound engineer), K. Hannah Friedman (assistant director), Jessica Forella (stage manager), Evan Frank (assistant stage manager), Michael Brosilow (photos)

Andrew Lund, George Toles, Stephanie Stockstill, Maisie Rose, Sarah Hayes, Jake Morrissy, Amanda Giles, Emily Goldberg and Caron Buinis star in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)Caron Buinis, Maisie Rose, Jake Morrissy, Andrew Lund, George Toles, Sarah Hayes and Stephanie Stockstill in Kokandy Productions' "Loving Repeating" by Gertrude Stein, Stephen Flaherty and Frank Galati, directed by Allison Hendrix. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

15-0731

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2015 Reviews, Ahrens & Flaherty, Kokandy Productions, Lauren Whalen, Musical, Theater Wit

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Comments are closed.