Lyric Opera of Chicago
The Lyric Opera kicks off its 56th season on October 1st presenting 68 performances of 8 operas in a 24-week period. On January 26, 2010, the upcoming season schedule was announced by General Director William Mason. Joining Mr. Mason at the press conference to discuss next year’s performances were Sir Andrew Davis, Music Director and Barbara Gaines, Director for Macbeth and Artistic Director for Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.
by Katy Walsh
Macbeth – October 1st through 30th
By Giuseppe Verdi
Italian with projected English translation (libretto)
Directed by Barbara Gaines*, Artistic Director of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre
Conducted by Renato Palumbo
Principals: Thomas Hampson, Nadja Michael*, Dimitri Pittas, Stefan Kocan*, and Carter Scott
Extra Special: New production by designers James Noone (sets), Virgil C. Johnson (costumes) and Robert Wierzel (lights).
Carmen – October 13st through 29th and March 12th through March 27th
- October: Kate Aldrich*, Yonghoon Lee*, Elaine Alvarez, and Kyle Ketelsen
- March: Nadia Krasteva*, Brandon Jovanovich, Nicole Cabell and Kyle Ketelsen
Extra Special: Fire burning Warhorse!
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – November 5th through 23rd
By Benjamin Britten
English with projected English translation
Directed by Neil Armfield
Conducted by Rory Macdonald*
Principals: David Daniels, Anna Christy, Peter Rose, Keith Jameson, Wilbur Pauley, Kelley O’Connor*, Shawn Mathey*, Elizabeth DeShong, Lucas Meachem, and Erin Wall
Extra Special: Lyric Opera premiere – new production designed by Dale Ferguson* (sets and costumes) and Damien Cooper* (lighting).
A Masked Ball – November 15th through December 10th
By Giuseppe Verdi
Italian with projected English translation
Directed by Renata Scotto
Conducted by Asher Fisch
Principals: Frank Lopardo, Sondra Radvanovsky, Mark Delavan, Stephanie Blythe*, and Kathleen Kim
Extra Special: New San Francisco production by designers Zack Brown (sets) and Christine Binder (lights).
The Mikado – December 6th through January 21st
By William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan
English with projected English translation
Directed by Gary Griffin
Conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s Music Director
Principals: James Morris, Neal Davies, Stephanie Blythe, Toby Spence*, Andriana Chuchman, Andrew Shore, Phillip Kraus, and Katharine Goeldner
Extra Special: New production by designers Mark Thompson* (sets and costumes) and Christine Binder (lights).
The Girl of the Golden West – January 22nd through February 21st
By Giacomo Puccini
Italian with projected English translation
Directed by Vincent Liotta
Conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s Music Director
Principals: Deborah Voigt, Marcello Giordani, Marco Vratogna*, David Cangelosi, and Daniel Sutin
Extra Special: Premiering at the Metropolitan Opera in 1910, this Puccini classic is celebrating a centennial anniversary.
Lohengrin – February 11th through March 8th
By Richard Wagner
German with projected English translation
Directed by Elijah Moshinsky
Conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric’s Music Director
Principals: Johan Botha, Emily Magee, Michaela Schuster*, Greer Grimsley, Georg Zeppenfeld*, and Lester Lynch
Extra Special: New production designed by John Napier* (sets and costumes) and Christine Binder (lights).
Hercules – March 4th through 21st
By George Frederic Handel
English with projected English translation
Directed by Peter Sellars
Conducted by Henry Bickett
Principals: Eric Owens, Alice Coote, David Daniels, Lucy Crowe*, and Richard Croft
Extra Special: Lyric Opera premiere! New production designed by George Tsypin (sets), Dunya Ramicova (costumes) and James F. Ingalls (lighting).
* Lyric Opera Debut
Twenty-three subscription packages will be offered with a 25% down payment plan option. Individual tickets for the 2010/2011 will be made available closer to the beginning of the season. It’s never too early to make a plan to experience the majesty that is the Lyric Opera.
Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.
— Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in his obituary, April 9, 1959
It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends.
— J. K. Rowling
I think that when you invite people to your home, you invite them to yourself.
— Oprah Winfrey, 20th Anniversary DVD
If you really do put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.
Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It’s unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don’t have to try.
— Peggy Noonan, in Good Housekeeping
Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.
— John Wayne
Many people weigh the guilt they will feel against the pleasure of the forbidden action they want to take.
— Peter McWilliams, Life 101
Don’t need to say please to no man for a happy tune.
— Neil Diamond, Cracklin’ Rose
shortly after one person in the group brings out their iphone, the rest follow suit, ultimately ending all conversation and eye contact.
"Hey, what do you want to order for drinks?" "Not sure, let’s see what Imbibe Magazine has for their best beer this month." First iphone comes out of the pocket–enter safari search. Next iphone comes out–enter Facebook post. Third iphone makes an entrance — the iphone effect has arrived.
TimeLine Theatre presents:
‘Master Harold’ and the Boys
Reviewed by Ian Epstein
‘Mastor Harold’ and the Boys leads an audience through what it feels like to be white or black, the owner’s son or the the owner’s servant, in the St. George’s Park Tea Room of Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1950 — a time shortly after South Africa officially fell under apartheid — and playwright Athol Fugard leads an audience through all of this in an hour and forty minutes with no intermission. It’s intense.
The story begins in set-designer Timothy Mann‘s brightly colored reconstruction of St. George Park Tea Room — an establishment that belonged to Athol Fugard’s parents as well as Hally’s. It’s a small establishment in one of South Africa’s larger coastal cities that sits towards the end of the curve that bends the Atlantic Ocean out into the Indian Ocean. Outside, it is wet and windy. No kind of weather to fly a kite.
By day, Willie (Daniel Bryant) is a Tea Room employee. By night, he trains so hard for the upcoming National Ballroom Dancing Competition that he beats his dance partner when she stumbles. He easily tires of mopping and opts, instead, to take the mop in hand and set off across the Tea Room, twirling around tables to the practiced tempo of the Quickstep, imagining himself onto the winner’s podium of "a world without collisions." The Quickstep is like a Foxtrot but faster, even without music; the fee to make the jukebox play is the same as the bus fare home.
Willie stops and starts his Quickstep according to Sam’s (Alfred H. Wilson) interruptions and suggestions. And Sam is a character full of both, and healthy doses of joke, poetry, and digression, too. From the first moments of the play, Bryant and Wilson breathe life into the pair beautifully. And they mill about the Tea Room getting everything in order with the familiarity and ease of two men who’ve worked in this Tea Room since before the audience got here and will remain long after they leave.
Enter a soaking wet Hally, short for Harold, (Nate Burger), the bosses’ boy. He storms in from school and the rain. He’s got homework that he shirks in favor of exchanges, arguments, saviors and heroes with Sam. Hally champions Darwin and Tolstoy, Sam picks up Jesus. They trade small talk, personal stories, and simple symbols as allegories for large swathes of South Africa — and as a tangled interracial pair, they themselves become symbolic of something South African and larger.
When he’s enjoying himself, Hally seems to forget about race. He pays close attention to the stories Sam tells. But as soon as the phone rings with bad news about dad by way of mom at the Hospital, he reliably remembers who is what color, how cruelty inflicted makes him feel lifted and how much work has to be done to maintain the Tea Room and just who the people are who should be doing it and aren’t. So he stabs at Sam and Willie, though at Sam much more than Willie and as the play unfolds in real time and the calls come in from the Hospital and then from home, everything mounts to a desolate, piercing, acrid crescendo.
Through director Jonathan Wilson’s meticulous guidance, ‘Mastor Harold’ and the Boys combines brutal, sincere acting with understated production elements that evoke apartheid’s early days in a way that makes them feel chilling and here to stay for a while. The costumes, lights, and the set are tremendously successful because they set the right tone for the play. Because it takes place in real time, Jonathon Wilson’s decisions stress story, sound, and script over visuals and spectacles. All of it comes together to make TimeLine Theater Company’s production a captivating, harrowing success.
Regular Run: Wednesdays at 7:30 pm (3/3, 3/10 and 3/17 only), Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 pm & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm. Running time approximately 1 hour 40 minutes with no intermission.
- Download the Master Harold… study guide
- Download the Master Harold… lobby display
- Post-show discussions (FREE) hosted by a TimeLine Company Member and featuring members of the production team and cast on Thursdays 1/28, 2/4 and 2/11; Sundays 2/14 and 2/21; and Wednesday 3/3.
- Sunday Scholars Series (FREE) on 1/31, an hour-long post-show panel discussion featuring experts on the themes of the play. You do not need to see the performance on this day to attend the discussion.
- More info at FugardChicago2010.com
Masterful production suffers from too large of performance space
Goodman Theatre presents:
|Hughie / Krapp’s Last Tape|
review by Barry Eitel
Hughie and Krapp’s Last Tape are the results of two Nobel Prize winning playwrights exploring the idea of loneliness. Both works dive headfirst into aching, despondent, cringe-worthy isolation—not sexy loneliness or quirky loneliness, but the brand of depressing loneliness caused by years of self-inflicted solitude. Samuel Beckett and Eugene O’Neill’, neither of whom is known for their sunny view of life, are masters in illustrating this theme in their plays. Pairing up the American O’Neill and the Irish Beckett was a bold decision, but the Goodman’s choice to put these plays together makes a lot of sense. Especially when you add to the mix adept directors Robert Falls and Jennifer Tarver and have the two plays carried by one Brian Dennehy. The finished product steals the breath away from the audience by the end, like if we had just witnessed a star implode on itself.
Although both plays could conceivably be described as one-man shows, they are both actually powerful, two-person dialogues. Hughie takes place long after midnight in a fleabag hotel lobby. The hotel’s night clerk (Joe Grifasi) stands alone behind the counter. Enter the drunken Erie Smith (Dennehy). Although the conversation is decidedly one-sided, the night clerk’s presence is essential to Erie’s booze-fueled tirade. Krapp’s Last Tape is a one-person show, but the sole character, also soaking in alcohol, is still having a dialogue. Instead of chatting with another flesh and blood human, Krapp (Dennehy again) interacts with himself, 30 years earlier, through an ancient tape player. Having the characters discourse with someone does the opposite of brightening the situation; the exchanges highlight the fact that these characters are completely starved for an authentic human connection. These plays are definitely not for the easily disturbed. After viewing, some bourbon and Prozac might be necessary to help you fall asleep.
Hughie, arguably the weaker of the two, is more plugged in to the real world. It’s fascinating to watch Dennehy rattle off stories of past friends, female conquests, and gambling victories. He mostly rambles about his only confidant in recent memory, the former night clerk, Hughie. Falls’ staging is brilliant. He is able to create viable stage pictures with only one moving actor, yet the production never feels unmotivated or scattershot. Grifasi is spot-on as the spaced-out clerk. Dennehy owns his role, layering bravado and self-assurance on top of Erie’s agonizing stabs at companionship.
Beckett is a much different writer than O’Neill, and requires a distinct approach in all aspects. Dennehy’s Krapp is a 180-turn from Erie. He’s a clown—a very lonely clown that let the opportunities of relationships slip by years ago. This production, directed by Canadian import Tarver, snaps together. Every second on stage is fraught with purpose. Dennehy’s dealings with a banana, his tape player, or his door are all significant. It also contains one of the most genius directing choices of this entire theatre season. Whenever Krapp leaves the main room to fetch a drink, he leaves the door open. The only movement on stage is the swinging light pull. There is something so Beckett, so existential, about that moment.
Hughie tends to drag a bit and the powerful silences of Krapp’s Last Tape are often interrupted by coughs and shifting, which is more of a comment on the audience than the production. The Albert stage seems a bit large for these plays. The size works for capturing the crushing, Atlas-scale solitude, but the anguished details are occasionally lost in the abyss. Still, the double-bill is remarkable. Nothing is overblown or glossed over; all aspects of both productions are painstakingly devised. Even the show is just over 90 minutes, you’ll have plenty of fodder for hours of therapy.
The Design Team for Hughie/Krapp’s Last Tape includes Eugene Lee (Sets), Patrick Clark (Costumes), Robert Thomson (Lights) and Richard Woodbury (Sound). Joseph Drummond is the Production Stage Manager, and T. Paul Lynch is the Stage Manager. All photography by Liz Lauren.
Illuminating "First Words"
Review by K.D. Hopkins
It may be incomprehensible for some to understand a parent’s pain and terror upon learning that something is not quite right with their child. It has been my experience in the African American community that disabilities were an insular subject. It was dealt with within the family and with the support of a tight knit neighborhood. There were no special schools or classes. It was often considered up to ‘the Lord’s will’ how someone with a disability coped in the world. MPAACT productions First Words is a lovingly crafted and honest look at autism and how a family dissolves under the pressures of reality and self-delusion.
Paul and Barbara are played as a normal and loving couple that has managed to coexist with their differences and the challenge of their autistic son Aiden. Paul carries religious wounds from a strict father and lives in fear of blasphemy lest he be punished. Andre Teamer plays the character of Paul. He projects a beautiful tension and frailty in his role as the father. Tina Marie Wright is a wonderful counterpoint as Barbara who is breaking under the strain of Aiden’s increasingly violent outbursts and no seeming way to get through to her son. Her performance is finely nuanced and subtle. Scott Baity Jr. plays the troubled and sometimes menacing Aiden with a coiled ferocity that was shocking and projected the helplessness of the autistic world.
The role of Diane, the facilitated communications expert, is played by Lauren Malara. Barbara’s character expects her to be an Ivy League White girl and is surprised when it is an Ivy League Black girl who walks in the door. Ms. Malara projects the epitome of fresh-faced enthusiasm. The character of Diane is an advocate of research and empirical evidence – until she sees the flaws in her methods.
Chuck Smith, whose rendition of James Baldwin’s “Amen Corner” at the Goodman was brilliant, directs this play. It is everyday life in the African American community that has been for the most part remanded to literary interpretation. These are people that I have known and not a glossy film retelling for palatability’s sake. The direction is flowing and I loved the added dimension of the characters projected behind them as they spoke. It underscored what seems to be in an autistic person’s mind: so much stimuli and in so many forms that it cannot be sorted out to the point where a touch can be the breaking point.
The set dressing seems to have been taken from a home in Morgan or Maple Park on the south side of Chicago. The family pictures in color and sepia tone were a wonderful touch as was the glowing white Bible on its own shelf. Mr. Teamer is the props master for this production and I presume that his character of Paul fed into the prop selection.
Aaron Carter, the playwright for First Words, has an interesting lineage of Baptist preacher and Vaudeville according to his biography notes. He has taken the best of both and crafted a fine play. There is the high dudgeon of fiery Baptist preaching and the slight of hand in Vaudeville without falling into the grotesque. The most compelling scenes are between Ms. Wright and Mr. Baity. Barbara is driven to break the silence and she has nightmares in which Aiden speaks. It becomes the adage of be careful of what you ask for-surely you will get it.
There are no easy answers or resolution to the controversy of facilitated communication for autistic persons in First Words. It is a searing presentation of what happens to a family when faith is divided and trust is broken in pursuit of answers. It is about the perception of what the parental bond means to a God-fearing father and a self-professed heathen mother. The answers are locked inside Aiden’s head as well as his parent’s dreams. The final moment of the play drives the ‘not knowing’ home with one subtle gesture. This production is highly recommended
“First Words” runs Thursdays through Sundays January 28th through February 28th at The Greenhouse Theatre Center. 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue. The Box Office number is 773-404-7336. Parents take note: this play contains adult language and scenes of violence.
‘Wicked’ returning for holidays – but at Cadillac Palace
When it comes to the highly-successful musical Wicked, the Emerald City wasn’t the only thing green about the show – the 2.9 million audience members over its 3.5 year run at the Oriental Theatre also brought in a whole lot of green, as in cold, hard cash.
So it makes total sense that the show’s producers are visiting Chicago again, this time for a 2-month run over the holidays (from December 1 – January 23, Cadillac Palace Theatre).
Read all of the details at Chris Jones blog, Theater Loop.
Welcome back Elpheba!
Great promise hobbled by vapid script
NightBlue Performing Arts Company presents:
The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
Reviewed by Barry Eitel
The myriad of shows penned by the Reduced Shakespeare Company (YouTube page) are a necessary by-product of theatre, something that someone would have thought of at some point or another. They provide a live-action, slightly-improvised, highly-goofy take on some of the cornerstones of Western civilization: Shakespeare, American History, the Holy Bible, Christmas. These ‘abridged’ versions are like a community college course taught by a Marx brother. Each show is crammed with highly-topical gags and audience participation. They are also highly relatable, since it’s a pretty safe bet that most Americans have a passing familiarity with Shakespeare or other highlights of literature (making the shows a decently lucrative bet for the producing companies). To be blunt, and at the risk of being called elitist, the series is theatre for those who don’t see much theatre. That’s not to say they can’t be enjoyable, as seen by NightBlue’s production of The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged). The three-person cast has enormous energy and pounces on the jokes, but the show is hobbled by the vapidity of the RSC concept and writing.
The cast is incredibly earnest; it is obvious that they are having a great time and want you to have one, too. There is the blasé Mark Stickney, swilling a 40 while critiquing some of the best writing of all time. Then there is the tall Jamin Gahm, set on pushing his Method psychological techniques onto these 400 year old plays. The trio is rounded out by the rambunctious Jennifer Reeves Wilson, who throws her playful energy deep into the audience.
In a 2-hour marathon, we’re taken through a winding journey of all of the Bard’s plays. The show shouldn’t serve as a source for your high school English paper, though. Heavy artistic liberties are taken, but that’s sort of the point. Othello becomes a rap (this is the first show I’ve seen with an official “rap coach”), Titus Andronicus becomes a cooking show, and most of the histories are tossed into a royal, yet deadly, football game. Everything but Hamlet comprises Act I, while “the greatest play of all time” earns a close inspection for the whole of Act II. This includes a performance of the play backwards as well as a version clocking in under 20 seconds.
It is the parodies and goofy updates that work the best; the hip-hop rendition of Othello, when the all-white cast showcases their rhyming and beat-boxing abilities, is the high point of the show. My biggest critique of the show is that there is actually too much of Shakespeare’s original language. Besides the occasional ‘but soft’ and simply pointing out how hard it is to understand, it’s difficult to make his language really that funny. Whenever the show turns to performing the original texts is when the show teeters on becoming uninteresting. It is much funnier to see Gahm in drag running through the aisles and gagging because he believes vomiting on the audience is what defines the Shakespearean heroines.
There are also quite a few jokes that are either overplayed or not worth the effort, like an extensive mash-up of all the comedies/cast striptease. It’s funny for a little while, but once they’ve made the point that all the comedies are kind of the same, they run low on comic fuel. The ultra-current humor can be somewhat spotty, ranging from hilarious (spoofing the fact that this show is replacing NightBlue’s postponed production of A Chorus Line) to confusing (drawing a connection between Avatar and depression?). Even though these talented actors obviously have a gift for vaudevillian screwball comedy, overcoming the drabness of the script is a difficult feat for them and the audience.
Thursday, February 4
I Am Camera
Come see Neo-Futurist Founder Greg Allen‘s new show I Am Camera. After the performance mingle with the cast and crew during which you will be supplied with plentiful amounts of beer from local brewer Metropolitan Brewing while simultaneously being fed different style pizzas from Apart Pizza.
Show begins at 8 p.m.
Event begins immediately following the performance (around 9:30 p.m.)
TICKETS ONLY $20
For reservations call 773.275.5255 and mention “Theater Thursdays,” or order online at www.neofuturists.org.
YouTube video – “Agony”
“Agony” from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.
NOTE: I have to say this is the most beautiful set I’ve ever seen for this show. Well done Greenville!
Kink it is-—NOT!
Annoyance Theatre presents:
review by Paige Listerud
GREG: I’m a workin’ man, sellin’ Coke and wearin’ a thong . . .
I’m a workin’ man, wearin’ panties everyday
I’m a workin’ man—God bless the USA!
A word of advice to musical comedy creators out there: christen your show with a title like Kink and the pressure is on to deliver. Either deliver the kink–or a piercing commentary on kinkiness—or change the title. By putting “Kink” out front like that, you’ve set up your audience with expectations of being blown away, metaphorically speaking.
The song “Sex Is Everywhere” kicks off a new musical by Mikala Beirma, Christina Boucher, and Rachel Farmer at Annoyance Theatre, directed by Rebecca Sohn. It’s almost as if they are telegraphing their dilemma. With every sexual persuasion just a mouse click away, the ubiquity of sex leaves less power to shock and titillate. The trouble is, that same ubiquity also gives sexual situations within comedy less power to shock or amuse. So where do you get your laughs from now, bitches?
Well, the creators of Kink demonstrate that you can still get them; if you’re willing to go deeper. They hit it on the head while exploring the earnest emotions of tomboy Julie Allman (Rachel Farmer), who, in the song “Acceptable Girl,” just wants to play high school girls’ basketball, not try out stupid dresses for prom. They achieve it through exploring her sister Tammy’s lofty, teenage romantic fantasies. The tune “Love Conquers All” dredges up every fucked-up, pop-culture depiction of love that Tammy (Christina Boucher) accepts as absolute truth. If a girl and a vampire . . . or a girl and a werewolf . . . or a guy and a mermaid can find true love, then so can she.
In fact, the character of Tammy Allman is pure comic gold. She hardly suspects what life’s really all about but she is ready to take the perilous plunge in “I’m getting ready for my life.” Boucher’s delivery of Tammy’s big number during half time at the homecoming basketball game, “Sweat Pants Dance,” shows utter comic commitment. By mid-show, the sound of Tammy’s voice alone had me giggling automatically.
But comedy surrounding Mom and Dad falls flat in this ultra-suburban setting. Nancy Allman (Mikala Bierma) and her husband Greg (Rachel Farmer) have desires they’ve never admitted to each other. Nancy wants to be a dominatrix and Greg loves to cross-dress. But other than the patriotic flourish with which Greg expounds on his love of ladies’ undergarments, not much comedy is generated out of their unfulfilled desires. It’s as if the creators agree with Tammy and Julie’s discussion of their parents, late at night in their bedroom:
JULIE: That’s not love. Look at Mom and Dad.
TAMMY: They fell in love at first sight!
JULIE: Yeah, and now their lives are over.
It’s clear Bierma, Farmer, and Boucher haven’t worked through all the comic ramifications of “Can This Marriage be Saved?” with Nancy and Greg. A longstanding advice feature of Ladies Home Journal, “Can This Marriage be Saved” has obviously been supplanted in the Kink universe by the overwhelming philosophical presence of Oprah and Dr. Phil, an issue address with the song, “Hallelujah, Oprah!”
As it is, the show handles sexual content bombastically and superficially, rather than getting to the center of disconnection between long-married husband and wife. As late night entertainment at Annoyance, one expects the limits on language and sexuality to be pushed and the blow-up dolls to be tossed around. But having crossed that Rubicon, it’s pushing the truth on human sexual experience that really makes for outrage.
The elixir works, audience swoons!
All photos by Dan Rest
Lyric Opera presents
The Elixir of Love
By Katy Walsh
We’ve seen it before – a guy in love (lust?) uses alcohol to overcome his shyness and catch the girl. Lyric Opera presents their own version of this scenario in The Elixir of Love by Gaetano Donizetti. Nemorino is in love with Adina. Adina is playing the field by flirting with a touring soldier, Belcore. To win Adina’s heart, Nemorino buys an elixir from a traveling peddler, Dulcamara. The potion is actually of bottle of Bordeaux. Eager to make a little cash, Dulcamara proclaims the miracle tonic clears up the complexion, cures joint pain and makes people fall in love. Due to a series of circumstances, all the village women try to court Nemorino. Both Adina and Dulcamara are stunned to observe Nemorino’s popularity. And all ends up well in the end.
Sung in Italian with English subtitles, The Elixir of Love has the signature opera element of multiple characters singing different words simultaneously for a rich sound. Unlike many operas, this show is a light hearted romantic comedy.
To be a principal in an opera, the prerequisite is a fantastic singing voice; an ability to act is not a deal breaker. Making his Lyric Opera debut, Giuseppe Fillanoti (Nemorino) is the full entertainment package. He can sing. He can act. And he’s nice to look at. Fillanoti plays the romantic lead with innocent simplicity and comedic timing. In the show’s most familiar aria “Una furtiva lagrima” (“One furtive tear”), Fillanoti is flawless in his soulful celebration. Holding her own, Nicole Cabell (Adina) is a playful match for Fillanoti. She sings through a range of personas: light-hearted flirt to strategic game player to nervous competitor to woman in love. Although Fillanoti and Cabell are cast perfectly together, their harmonious coupling will end with their February 5th performance. Frank Lopardo (Nemorino) and Susanna Phillips (Adina) will take over the roles from February 7th thru 22nd. The rest of the cast will be featured for the entirety of the run including the wonderful performances of a cocky Belcore (Gabriele Viviani), smooth-singing salesman Dulcamara (Alessandro Corbelli), and village women leader Giannetta (Angela Mannino).
Though the cast shines, the creative design is lackluster. The costumes and set of The Elixir of Love are stagnant. Having anticipated the theatrical spectacle as is the Lyric Opera style, it’s a little disappointing. But as a consolation, LO does bring out a live horse on stage pulling the peddler’s wagon, though – because of the massive stage – the horse blends in with the 50+ villagers chorus. (I can’t help but question how Lyric gets a horse inside the Civic Opera House and where does it stand between scenes. As classy as the Lyric is, I like to imagine that the horse has his own dressing room equipped with the best carrots and saddle soap.)
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, The Elixir of Love is the perfect date opera. It’s a romantic comedy that has a happy ending. This is not always the case in real life or on the opera stage, so enjoy it while you can.
- Based on Eugene Scribe’s libretto Le Philtre (1831)
- Sung in Italian with English subtitles
- Projected English titles by Matthew Lata
- Two and half hours with one intermission
- Additional creative team: Ulisse Santicchi (designer), Jason Brown (lighting), Donald Nally (Chorus Master), Richard Jarvie (Wigmaster & Makeup Design)
Filthy. Gorgeous. A bit of a Drag.
Annoyance Theatre presents:
Glitter in the Gutter
**The first and only live Drag Queen Sitcom**
By Keith Ecker
Who among us has not pondered the secret lives of drag queens? When the lights at the cabaret fade and the bar lets its regulars loose upon the night, where does the entertainment go? And what of the less successful divas, those that harbor Ru Paul dreams while clunking around in chintzy platform heels?
Glitter in the Gutter, a new play produced by Annoyance Productions and directed and written by Kellen Alexander, tells this story. Or to be more precise, it tells the story of two particular drag queens who are tragically trashy, down on their luck and caught on the cusp of eviction.
The play opens on the shared apartment of Pepper LaRoo (Seth Dodson) and Velveeta Fitzgerald (Wes Perry). Pepper, slender, graceful and nursing a throbbing head, is the Patsy to Velveeta’s somewhat more grounded Edina (see AbFab). The headache interferes with Pepper’s memory of the night prior, but she does recall meeting a man whose number she stored in her phone.
Enter Beverly Poon (Sarah Fineout), a rival performer with a voice that sounds like she’s gargling gravel. It is through her that Pepper discovers the man she met the night before was none other than Vinnie Cancer (Ben Kass), a famous record producer. Of course, this sends Pepper and Velveeta into a tizzy. They decide to invite Vinnie over for a date with the ulterior motive of landing a record contract.
When Vinnie stops by, he hands Pepper a slip of paper to fulfill her wish. Wanting a piece of the fame pie, Velveeta attempts to woo Vinnie to sign her as well. Caring more for image than talent, Vinnie lets Velveeta down hard. Little does Vinnie know that his newfound flame can move her mouth to music but is completely tone deaf.
Scorned, Velveeta runs away from home. She befriends a bag lady (Rachel Reed) in the alley out back and settles down for a life of domesticity and Dumpsters.
The play is the kind of over-the-top, absurdist comedy reminiscent of Charles Busch or John Waters . It’s campy, it’s crass and it’s unapologetically gay. But wash off the rouge and the eye shadow, and the play’s flaws become more apparent.
Although Alexander is obviously talented—he, along with Dodson, are part of the phenomenal improv group 1, 2, 3, Fag! — he seems overwhelmed with managing writing and directing duties. Likely unable to give both adequate attention, the writing and the pacing of the play suffer from a lack of concision.
Jokes that would otherwise kill fall flat when the punch line gets lost in a tangle of words. Also, too often too much is said that could easily have been accomplished with action. This slows down the pacing of the overall play, making the first act in particular feel like a drag.
It is in the subtleties that Alexander excels. One of the funniest parts of the play is when Officer Rick Pony (Alex Moffat) makes his entrance wearing roller shoes. No dialogue needed. The same goes with the inclusion of a window that is operated off stage by a pulley. It’s a simple and cheesy stage piece that serves a purpose and is used to great comedic effect.
Dodson and Perry are both talented actors. Dodson’s delivery and soft-spokenness, his agile dance moves and his comedic timing make him an attention magnet. Perry, who sounds an awful lot like Mrs. Garrett from the Facts of Life, has a strong voice and a commanding presence as well.
I have to give special recognition to Reed, whose deadpan portrayal of an off-kilter homeless woman is a scene-stealer. She also is fortunate to have the best dialogue in the entire play.
If Glitter in the Gutter aspires to be in the same ranks as other campy classics, it misses its mark. But it’s an entertaining piece none-the-less that is sure to please fans of kitsch and drag.
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