Seeing What They Want to See PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Sunday, 26 April 2009 12:44

SOUTH BEND — An ancient world is crafted carefully and beautifully in the South Bend Civic Theatre production of "Rashomon," playing Wednesday through Sunday in the Wilson Mainstage Auditorium. Based on two short stories written in 1915 and 1921 by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, its most familiar incarnation is the 1950 film by Japanese master Akira Kurosawa. The play by Fay and Michael Kanin followed in 1959, with Rod Steiger as the Bandit and his then-wife Claire Bloom as the Wife. Set at the Rashomon Gate (the castle gate) at the entrance to the city of Kyoto about 1,000 years ago, it nevertheless carries a timeless truth, delivered by the Wigmaker (Kathleen Carnavan-Martin) who serves throughout as sort of chorus/conscience. "People see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear," she says to a Woodcutter (Kyle Curtis) and a disillusioned Priest (Nathaniel Smith), understandably confused after listening to several versions of the same crime.

Rashomon at South Bend Civic TheatreThe basic story is the same. A famous Bandit (Scot Shepley) falls upon a Samuri (C.J. Nwokah) and his Wife (Emilija Nahas) traveling through the forest. The Wife is raped and her husband ends up dead, but was the rape really rape and just how did the husband die? The reenactments by the participants, plus an additional one by the Woodcutter, who was an observer, are presented from each one's point of view, with help from the Stage Keeper (Seyhan Kilic). As in the classic Japanese theater, the Stage Keeper delivers all the sound effects from thunder to a crow to a baby, plays (or supplies) all the "supporting" roles including the Bride's mother, a horse and a medium through whom the dead Samurai delivers his version, and distributes costumes pieces when required. No surprise, each version has a number of similar incidents yet each presents the teller as the wronged person. During several, there are vigorous duels between the Samuri and the Bandit, all well-staged by, I assume, director Jim Geisel as there is no program credit for a fight choreographer. Each of the actors delivers a strong performance, with Shepley's Bandit truly frightening and Carnavan-Martin's Wigmaker walking well the thin line between seer and psychotic. The costume design and construction by Jonnie Kilic and Lois Veen and the scenic and lighting design by David Chudzynski, plus the mood-inducing sound plot, work beautifully together. There is no credit given for makeup, but there should be. It is well done on each of the seven actors and adds much to the essence of time and place created by the imposing set and costuming. "Rashomon" is Geisel's directorial debut for SBCT. He delivers a complete package which hopefully is the first of many.

For ticket information, see the SBCT link on this page. "Rashomon&quote; is performed without intermission.

Looking at life through "Art" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Tuesday, 24 March 2009 11:36

NAPPANEE — The mainstage season of Amish Acres' Round Barn Theatere is several weeks away, but what may be the best production of its year is currently in the Locke Meeting House, tucked away at the rear of the gift shop adjacent to the theater. On the small, back-to-basics stage, the award-winning play "Art" is in the more than capable hands of a trio of actors — Sam Brown, Joe Ford and Jeremy Littlejohn. All three will be familiar to regular Round Barn audience members, although Jeremy is more often in the director's chair and Joe, on stage in Chicago. Together they do an excellent job of recreating the protagonists in Yasmine Reza's 1998 play, which is often described as a comedy but definitely has enough sharply dark moments to question that label. Whatever you want to call it, "Art" is a 90-minute examination of both the limits of friendship and the definition of art.

Art at Amish AcresSerge (Brown), a dermatologist with a penchant for art, has purchased a new painting which he eagerly displays for his friend of 15 years Marc (Ford), an aeronautical engineer. Marc's reaction to the work — a white painted canvas with some barely discernible white lines across it — and more especially to the purchase price — $200,000 — is to laugh uncontrollably, call it a joke and label it "crap." Serge, not surprisingly, is less than pleased and defends his acquisition. The arguments move from the painting to more personal moments and, in the way of all verbal battles, cutting words are said in increasing anger. Their friend Yvan (Littlejohn) is focused on his upcoming wedding and his hated new job as a stationery salesman. Basically an insecure person, he tries his best to placate both his friends and, naturally, winds up the target for their anger. "Why," he asks, "Do we see each other if we hate each other?" It seems that fractured friendships are unavoidable, but a saving gesture mends them, at least temporarily. The personalities of the friends are sharply detailed in the performances as their characters are, by turn, sympathetic and abrasive. It is impossible to hear the fast-paced dialogue without something hitting home. And there are plenty of laughs, possibly of recognition. Here the point of contention is art. In reality it could be anything.

Art" plays at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations, call 773-3722.

Will the Real Bride Please Stand PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Sunday, 22 March 2009 09:11

BRISTOL — It comes as no surprise to those who know me that farce is about my least favorite form of theater. That said, the hard-working cast of playwright Robin Hawdon's venture into the wild world of who-did-what-to-whom-and-with-whom-and-why — "Perfect Wedding" — is a fun way to spend two hours if you have a tolerance for the same-old/same-old. After the first half hour, that's what every farce becomes: Different twists on the same story delivered at increasingly breakneck speed — and with a multitude of additional flourishes — by each of the major characters. In "Perfect Wedding," those twists are less mean-spirited and bathroom humor-sourced than in many, although it is more Ray Cooney than Ken Ludwig. The small cast deserves large cheers for its delivery of this dizzying dialogue without much hesitation while managing to keep everyone in their properly convoluted character-of-the-moment. It is a rather daunting task and they accomplish it with applaudable flair, also managing to wait for the many laughs, a feat without which the laughs soon fade in the fear of losing dialogue. The only pitfall is overdoing the line deliveries or attitudes that evoke the most reaction. What can be funny at first, soon becomes repetitive and annoying, turning character into caricature.

Bill (Peter Sessions) is about to be married. On the morning of his wedding day, he wakes up in the bridal suite very hungover and with a naked woman in his bed. He has no idea who she is or how she got there or what went on between them. All he knows is that the clock is ticking and he has only a few hours to get it together. Enter Tom (Ricky Fields), his best man, a take-charge kind of guy who sets about to help his friend emerge from his impending pre-nuptial catastrophe. Of course, his efforts, which include many mistaken identities (a mainstay of all farces everywhere as is the extremely long arm of coincidence), lots of close calls, slamming doors and several people who could not possibly be as oblivious as they seem. But hey, it's a farce so suspension of disbelief is a major requirement. The initially naked woman is Judy (Stephanie Zonker), who heads for the bathroom at Tom's arrival. Next on the scene is Rachel (April Sellers), a bride who is nothing if not in charge. She is followed by the hotel chambermaid Julie (Jen Shenk) who comes to clean up and stays to make a real mess of everything. Finally, the bride's mother (Lorri Krull) enters with the gown and hopes for a "Perfect wedding." It isn't easy, but by the final blackout, each one is paired with his/her appropriate other and lots of "big moments" lie ahead. Director Randy Zonker keeps his sextet of players in good form, going from slow walk (the groggy awakening) to a trot (the best man) to a canter (the bride-to-be) to a gallop (the chambermaid) to a full out run (the mother of the bride). With all finally assembled and accounted for, mayhem ensues, much to the delight of the opening night audience. "Perfect Wedding" plays at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Bristol Opera House. Tickets: 848-4116.

Getting Ready to Make Disney Magic PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 11 March 2009 12:13

Students in the Goshen High School auditorium are focused intently on the energetic woman standing at center stage. Director Marcia Yost is giving notes  to the cast and crew of the upcoming GHS production of "Beauty and The Beast" before one of the final dress rehearsals.

beauty and the beast - goshen high school The show, based on the original Walt Disney animated feature, went to Broadway in 1994 and was an instant hit. Since then it has, in spite of its many production "challenges," become a favorite of community theaters and schools across the country. One never, it seems, gets tired of the tale of Belle and her Beast and the romantic transformation that led to happily ever after. For Yost, however, producing this musical after it has made the rounds of other groups  and schools in this area is not true to form. She was the first to lead led her team through the premiere production of the high school version of "Les Miserables" and tried for "Beauty" when it was initially released for amateur production. But timing is everything and those rights went to John Glenn High School. Yost instead produced a high-flying "Peter Pan." "After that we did 'Godspell,' an ensemble show," the dynamic director recalled. "And then one thing led to another and a couple of area theaters and schools had done it ('Beauty and The Beast') and we decided to wait." Obviously the time is right and, as usual, Yost & Co. are pulling out all the stops.

beauty and the beast - goshen high schoolIn one part of the auditorium,  Jacob Greaser is being turned into the Beast and Katie Neeb Miller goes over her lines as Belle. Justin Lehman and Elisabeth Kleinsmith check their elaborate costumes as Cogsworth the butler/clock and Mrs. Potts, housekeeper/teapot, respectively, while Luke Jacobs displays Gaston's muscles and Tell Williams prepares for the many stage falls required of LeFou.

beauty and the beast - goshen high schoolScenic designer Rich Snyder did not make it easy on himself or his construction crew. He designed and built a rotating central block (shades of 'Les Mis') that turns from the village marketplace to the palace of the Beast and back again easily and, more important, silently. Expanding the playing area, one side of the stage becomes Belle's palace room and the other, the Beast's tower where the enchanted rose is drooping. Drops and set pieces define the additional locations — the village inn, the forest and Belle's home.

beauty and the beast - goshen high schoolAdd to this the costuming —not only for the many villagers but for the enchanted inhabitants of the palace who gradually become "objects" as the spell increases — plus props, wigs, makeup, black lights, fog machines,  a trickling fountain, live mikes for each of the primary performers and, in the grand finale, an airborne transformation courtesy of ZFX Flying Effects, and you have a production of grand proportions. And that doesn't include the 85 young people in the singing/dancing/acting cast and Sue Ellington's orchestra. "We encourage them to give all they've got," Yost said of her students. "They don't realize how much they have down deep. We don't want them to disappoint themselves." Talking to the assembled company, her final instructions were "Work a plan ... you'll have a plan and that's how good theater happens.""Beauty and The Beast" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and March 19-21 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday and March 22 in the GHS auditorium. Tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for children and students through high school with senior citizen prices for Sunday matinees. FCor reservations, 533-7674 or 533-8651, ext. 2518.

beauty and the beast - goshen high school

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