Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Reviews Posted and Me Quoted

I had two reviews posted on Centerstage yesterday--products of my seeing shows Thursday and Friday nights. Last night's play still needs to be written up...hopefully the review should be posted sooner than later. For now, the link to Shotgun Shakespeare: What the Weird Sisters Saw, the lengthily named new meditation on Macbeth being produced by Idle News at The Side Project is here and Never The Sinner, produced by the brand New Project 891 Theatre Company at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy is reviewed here. The full texts of the reviews are below.

So does anyone remember my review of 500 Clown and the Elephant Deal? It was basically a rave, and apparently they appreciated it too: If you visit their site you can see a quote from me, "Bypassing the mind and going straight to the guts," right on the front page. Now I know this is just marketing, and if I pan their next show they won't love me so much. But it still feels sorta nice. By the way, the show closed. If you missed it, you lost out. Hope they return with this one.

Here's the review for Weird Sisters:

Who were the three witches in Macbeth? What forces led them? Idle Muse's "What The Weird Sisters Saw" tries to answer those questions, but aside from isolated compelling moments, it's far too confusing to be illuminating.

Co-adapters Evan Jackson and Tristan Brandon have woven lines from Macbeth into a story that depicts the three witches (also known as the Weird Sisters) before Shakespeare's story actually starts. A working knowledge of the original seems necessary to have the slightest understanding of what is going on in the play, yet that knowledge is also distracting. Hearing the original lines spoken by different characters in changed situations keeps taking the audience out of the story being presented onstage.

What that story is, however, is a question I still can't answer. The witches (Elizabeth MacDougald, Carolyn Jania, and Mara Kovacevic) appear to be assaulted by the characters from the play, forced into setting the story's events into motion. However, it's not clear who is responsible for this happening, or even how it's taking place. It also leaves the central characters essentially passive and reactive, which makes it hard to get dramatically involved.

The evening is not without excitement, though. There are sections of strong verse and Jackson, who is also the director, has used the small, deep stage quite well. The fact that the stage is covered with cedar chips also makes it the best-smelling show in town.

Unfortunately, the sisters have not been provided with distinguishable personalities, and the audience gets no clear idea of exactly what they want and what they're fighting against. And without a clear dramatic spine, this often-intriguing exercise in reimagined Shakespeare remains uninvolving.

And here's my take on Never The Sinner:

The true story of the Leopold and Loeb murder seems tailor-made for the stage. Two wealthy, young men from Chicago, embroiled in a toxic combination of Nietzsche's philosophy, obsessive sexual desire and criminal impulses, captured and killed a 14-year-old boy from their neighborhood. They were convinced that, as supermen, they were superior creatures, above the law, who would never get caught. It didn't work out that way.

The lurid tale has proved irresistible, and has been adapted frequently since the 1924 events. John Logan's "Never The Sinner" has seen substantial success, and is now being revived by the brand-new Project 891 Theatre Company. It's a creditable first effort.

It's a compelling piece that successfully gets inside the heads of these profoundly disturbed characters. It has one major flaw, however: Logan's tendency to use his characters as mouthpieces for competing arguments rather than allowing them to have full organic life.

The production is a clear, vigorous interpretation of the events - director Michael Rashid wisely avoids directorial tricks to keep the focus on the central couple. (Though his choice to put blackouts between each of the 20-plus scenes severely hurts the story's flow.) Matt Hays captures Loeb's dangerous energy, but misses the seduction that kept him above suspicion for so long. Anyone that obviously unhinged would have been caught immediately. Matt Popp's Leopold is more convincing—you can see the cold, emotionally starved boy who'd latch onto the slightest hint of excitement.

Even a strong play like "Never The Sinner" can't really explain Leopold and Loeb, but this production offers two chilling hours in their company.

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