Tag: Antonio Bruno

Review: Water & Power (UrbanTheater Company)

Ivan Vega and Dennis Garcia star as Power and Water in Water & Power, UrbanTheater Chicago           
      

  

Water & Power

Written by Richard Montoya  
Batey Urbano, 2620 W. Division (map)
thru July 22  |  tix: $20  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

June 28, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: La Gringa (UrbanTheater Company)

Sofia Tew and Nydia Castillo star in La Gringa by Carmen Rivera, UrbanTheater Chicago           
      
  

La Gringa

Written by Carmen Rivera
at UrbanTheater, 2620 W. Division (map)
thru Dec 11 Jan 28  |  tix: $20  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

January 17, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Bonegrinders (Bendsinister Theatre)

     
     

An authentic, yet not wholly theatrical new play

     
     

A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.

BENDSINISTER Theatre presents

   
   
Bonegrinders
   

Written by Melody Von Smith
Directed by Juan Castaneda
at The RBP Rorschach, 4001 N. Ravenswood (map) 
thru June 18th  |  tickets: $15 (suggested donation) 
more info

Reviewed by Jason Rost

While their name is up for debate, BENDSINISTER Theatre is a company packed with potential. The exact same can be said for the title and script of their latest production, Bonegrinders by Melody Von Smith, an environmental chemist and journalist by day. As you enter the RBP Rorschach space, set designer Noel Dominique has created an incredibly authentic looking bar. It’s so real, that you can purchase drinks from the bartender before the start of the show. It’s this authenticity that Von Smith and director Juan Castaneda excel at. However, getting the look and feel of a setting is not enough to make for a good theatrical outing. With such attention to realism, there is very little in terms of theatricality that merits this script being a play instead of a screenplay or television script.

A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.Von Smith certainly has something with this script, but in its current state it lacks consistency. The theme of coming home from war and being unable to adjust to daily life has been told countless times, i.e. The Hurt Locker. The difference in Von Smith’s script is that instead of dealing with enlisted men and women, it deals with war journalists, but that difference is a fine line according to Von Smith.

Bendsinister’s Bonegrinders takes place entirely inside a typical neighborhood bar in Buffalo, NY. The story revolves around Sadie (played with great emotional capacity by Erin Elizabeth Orr), who has been recently widowed after her husband Lloyd, an embedded war journalist, was killed while working in the Middle East. The play opens when Sadie receives a letter from Lloyd, sent before he was killed, the day before his funeral. Her friends gather around her and attempt to comfort and advise her as she struggles to decide whether or not to open the letter. Further conflict arises when Lloyd’s best friend, Riley (Adam Dodds), a vigilante war photographer himself, returns for the funeral. A chaotic, at times muddled, mixture of anger, grief, and alcohol create a tumultuous atmosphere as events unfold and occasional truths are revealed.

Von Smith’s structure is where the play falters. The emphasis on giving each character their own storyline ultimately detracts from the central conflict. It appears to be a symptom of mimicking television episodic structure. The setting, characters and dialogue are exceptionally realistic. She has clearly given great thought and care to birthing each of these characters. Conversely, since we don’t have a 13-episode television series, and rather a two-hour play, you simply cannot stop the story immediately at hand from moving forward. If this were a play about “a bar” where different stories and different people enter and exit, then that might work. However, what we have is a play about a dead war journalist, his wife and his best friend. Taking detours to explore Devin’s (Greg Wenz) relationship with his father or Phil’s (Arch Harmon) restaurant business is superfluous and lessens the emotional impact of the primary narrative.

     
A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda. A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.
A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda. A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.

The insights we gain on the life of a war journalist or photographer is minimal. It’s nothing that could not be discovered after ten-minutes of googling the subject matter. Also, while Mike Cherry, Orr and Wenz give thoughtful performances, the cast on a whole is uneven. Dodd’s emotional outbursts are often contrived and strained. Harmon is a good presence to the mix, but is unfortunately very difficult to understand at times as he recites his lines by rote. Castaneda gets the atmosphere and naturalism perfectly, but fails at helping Von Smith’s script out by not shaping and building it through pacing.

Von Smith is a playwright to watch, as is Bendsinister Theatre as a new company. Bonegrinders, while ambitious, just doesn’t hit the emotional heights it aims for and divulges very little information about the world of war journalism. It lands into soap-opera territory too often. If she would allow her supporting characters to, well, support…that focus would be a start at allowing her central characters to communicate the political, human and social depth she hints at currently.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

A scene from BENDSISTER Theatre's "Bonegrinders", by Melody Von Smith, directed by Juan Castaneda.

BENDSINISTER Theatre presents the Midwest premiere of Bonegrinders, continuing through June 18th at the RBP Rorschach. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM, and Sunday at 6 PM. A $15 donation for entry is requested. Performances are BYOB, with concessions available. Seats can be reserved by email at tickets@bendsinister.org or by phone at 773-234-2363. More information can be found at bendsinister.org

More info on Von Smith and the initial production of Bonegrinders: http://www.buffaloathome.com/detail.aspx?dct=54&id=6520&mid=240&loc=rss

     
     

June 12, 2011 | 0 Comments More