'Auntie Mame' a timeless character PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 19:50

Few authors have gotten so much mileage from a relative as Patrick Dennis, author of the 1955 novel "Auntie Mame." The endearingly eccentric Mame Dennis (based on his real aunt) has enjoyed a very long life in her travels from the printed page to the theatrical stage (without music in 1958 and with in 1966) and finally to a big screen technicolor extravaganza in 1974, unfortunately the weakest of its incarnations.

South Bend Civic Theatre  Auntie MameThe original comedy is on stage through May 22 in South Bend Civic Theatre's Wilson Mainstage Theatre and the ebullient lifestyle of the title character is just as refreshing — if much less off-beat — more than a half-century later. 

Mame (Pat Berardi) is lady who lives life to the fullest, surrounded by a coterie of wild and wacky individuals, not the least of which is her best friend Vera Charles (Mary Ann Moran), a theatrical star who views life through a martini glass. At the center of her world is her young nephew Patrick (Dillon Slagle/Justin Williams), who arrives at her Beekman Place apartment with Norah Muldoon (Dawn Marie Hagerty) during one of his aunt's "small" soirees. Patrick's father is recently deceased and he has come to live with Mame, his only relative, under the restrictively puritanical eye of Dwight Babcock (Roy Bronkema) of the Knickerbocker Bank.

The background for Mame's shifting lifestyle is reflected in her large and elegant apartment which goes from prohibition through the Depression to a literary period and turn at Swedish modern. The SBCT set, designed by Phil Patnaude, takes over the entire stage, with large, gilt-topped columns at each side and a proscenium-wide second floor hallway. Two large areas in the main level wall are used — although not nearly enough — as a background for Mame's ever-changing decor but the sweeping staircase which can allow the colorful lady to make her initial appearance is, sadly, missing. Instead, the flamboyant character walks on through her guests in a less-than-spectacular introduction to what follows.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 June 2011 17:01
'Dearly Beloved' Aims at Funnybone PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 03 May 2011 20:02

The focus is on happily-ever-after in “Dearly Beloved,” the wild and wooly comedy on stage at the Bristol Opera House through Sunday.

The Elkhart Civic Theatre production, the first in a trilogy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Woolen, looks at a very special day in the life of the Futrelle sisters deep in the heart of Fayro, Texas.

Dearly Beloved Elkhart Civic TheatreIn and around the anticipated nuptials of Tina Jo Dubberly (Karen Hoover) and her never-seen fiancé Parker Price, swirl a parade of slightly off-center characters. The bride’s mother, Frankie Futrelle Dubberly (Amy Pawlosky), is determined that the “Gone With the Wind” wedding theme will be strictly enforced. Her husband, Dub (Tom Doughty), does his best to keep out of the way. Her sisters Twink (Susan Curtis) and Honey Raye (Valerie Ong) are attempting to help but their efforts only result in increasing the chaos in and around The Tabernacle of the Lamb Church, site of the wedding and reception.

The bride’s twin sister, Gina Jo (also Hoover), has found her calling as Fayro’s chief cow inseminator but is struggling with a hidden crush on Justin Waverly (Ricky Fields), a UPS man working his way through the seminary.

Completing this definitely unusual set of individuals are Miss Geneva Musgrove (Karen Johnston) who runs the local flower shop/bus depot in addition to her duties as wedding planner; Sheriff John Curtis Buntner (Anthony Venable), who practices his quick draw at any opportunity “just in case”; Nelda Lightfoot (Lorri Krull), the town medium; Patsy Price (Pati Banik), the groom’s mother whose main object is to derail the wedding; and Wiley Hicks (Kevin Ong), the town drunk and Twink’s boyfriend of 15-plus years.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 21:17
Laughs Are A Fact at ECT's 'Rumors' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 15 March 2011 00:00

Elkhart Civic Theatre is offering two hours (plus intermission) of solid laughs in its current production of “Rumors,” one of the good ones from the extensive library of comedy master Neil Simon, which opened Friday in the Bristol Opera House.

Like his classic hit “The Odd Couple,” “Rumors” takes a rather unusual situation, inhabits it with characters that can be very familiar, peppers it with hilarious one-liners, shakes it all together and lets the hilarity escalate to frequently side-splitting proportions.

Rumors at Elkhart Civic TheatreThe increasingly frantic proceedings take place in the home of Charles and Myra Brock in Sneden’s Landing, N.Y. He is the Deputy Mayor of New York and they are giving a party to celebrate their 10th anniversary. At the opening curtain, first arrivals Chris and Ken Gorman (Julie Castello and Rick Nymeyer) are obviously in panic mode. The reason? Charlie is upstairs in the bedroom with a bullet hole in his earlobe, Myra is nowhere to be found and the cook and butler have left with the dinner uncooked in the kitchen

Because of his political position, the Gormans decide to keep what they believe is a failed suicide attempt to themselves and, as the three other couples arrive, begin a chain of outrageous tales to explain the absence of their hosts.

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 April 2011 22:54
‘boom’ An Entertaining Experience PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Friday, 15 April 2011 23:21

It begins with the sound of drums and the crashing of cymbals and the resulting cacophony is a clue to what is to follow in the New World Arts production of “boom” (no caps!) a new play by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb .

"boom" opened Friday evening in the space upstairs at 211 S. Main Street in Goshen (entrance/parking off Third Street) and will receive its final performances tonight and Saturday.

I have to admit, I’m not exactly sure of what it’s all about but it is a highly entertaining experience. Director Scott Jackson has a way of putting together some of the best actors in the area — Melissa Gard, Sheryl Turski and Aaron Nichols — and turning them loose on off-beat, dialogue-heavy situations. As always, they are perfectly up to the challenge.

The detailed set, which holds more than meets the eye, is the best since “Who’s Afraid of Virginian Woolf?” It covers the entire playing area and extends onto the stage left audience seats. Every inch is put to good use and there is tremendous attention to detail. Here, it’s the little things that make a big difference.

new world arts Goshen boomThe “plot” goes from quirkey to strange to wildly weird. The setting is the apartment of marine biologist Jules (no last names)(Nichols) in the basement of a building designed to be a bomb shelter. Answering his online ad for “sex to change the course of the world,” 22-year-old journalist Jo (Turski) is understandably disconcerted when Jules announces, after one highly disappointing kiss, that he is gay and has never had sex. Neither, it turns out, has Jo.

His aim is to repopulate the world after the catastrophe. To prepare for the years it will take the dust to settle, he has stocked the apartment with wildly diverse “necessities” including diapers, plastic cups, tampons, bourbon, Disney DVDs and toilet paper. Unfortunately, Jo makes no bones of the fact that she hates babies and would prefer “to start a new line of homo sapiens.”

A focal point of the room is a fish tank in which swim two fish, John-John and Dorothy. By was of explanation, Jules notes that he spent many years on an island studying the effects of sun, etc., on fish and has detected strange patterns which lead him to believe that the fish can sense the passage of a comet and, now, a globally catastrophic event.

When the catastrophe occurs (boom!) it unhappily caves in the roof of the storage room, and the couple is forced to seek a way to find something better and exit the apartment in a blaze of light (and, of course, a big boom).

Sounds rather clear cut if a bit off center, right? Add to this Barbara (Gard), percussionist extraordinaire. Backed by a curtain of stars, she is initially silent and then intrudes more and more frequently to “explain” what’s going on, which only adds to the confusion.

OK. So is this a microcosm of planet earth and the universe and is Barbara God’s right hand person or is she a docent in a “Museum of Epic and Internet Events”?

I am sure there are any number of interpretations but Jackson & Co. just let you choose your own. Whatever works. And in the hands of the excellent trio of performers, many options seem logical. Bottom line, even if you can’t figure it out, you’ll have a great time trying.

NOTE: Very special praise for Angelique Birky-Hartmann who is in charge of the “catch of the day.” Good thing she not claustrophobic.

“boom” will be presented at 8 p.m. today and Saturday in the theater at 211 S. Main Street in Goshen. Tickets at the door.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 April 2011 18:36
Sprawling 'Ragtime' Rather Ragged PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Friday, 18 March 2011 00:00

"Ragtime," the 1998 Broadway musical based on the book by E.L. Doctorow, has always been one of my favorite shows. It opened March 11 in the Wilson Mainstage Auditorium of South Bend Civic Theatre.

Ragtime at the South Bend Civic TheatreCounting that, I have seen five “Ragtime” productions, including the Broadway extravaganza, two touring companies and a Michigan community theater. The last was my “rule of thumb ” for this show. Producing “Ragtime” is biting off a huge chunk of musical theater and sometimes it is just too huge to be well digested.

“Ragtime” earned Tony Awards for Best Book (by Terrence McNally), and Best Score (by composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens). It was edged out for the Best Musical honor by “The Lion King.”

Under the direction of Ted Manier, with music direction by Mrs. Rebecca A. Wilson, the narrative looks at three diverse groups in turn-of-the-century America. These are represented by upper class suburban whites in New Rochelle, African-Americans in Harlem and and Eastern European immigrants at Ellis Island.

As their lives cross-cross in the sprawling libretto, which is primarily sung-through with very little dialogue, a number of historical figures including Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington, J.P. Morgan, Stanford White, Harry K. Thaw and Admiral Perry, appear briefly, with longer appearances by Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit and Emma Goldman.

Heading the primary groups are Kelli Armentrout and Michael Snyder as Mother and Father, Dominic Go as Mother’s Younger Brother, Matthew Pruitt as The Little Boy, and Gary Oesch as Grandfather; Quinton McMutuary and Terrilyn J. Dennie are Coalhouse Walker Jr. and Sarah, respectively; with Steve Chung as Tateh and Natalie Rarick as his Little Girl.

The lush and lovely score is a blend of rousing choral numbers and powerfully poignant solos, some of which lead become duos and trios, The music almost never stops. Outstanding among the soloists is Armentrout, whose clear solid soprano voice expresses the changes Mother experiences going from unquestioning wife (“Journey On”) to a individual who can never go “Back to Before.”

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 April 2011 23:00
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