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Friday, July 29, 2016

Theater Review: Honest Pint Theatre's Uncut Hamlet Is Worth Its Daunting Girth

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2016 at 2:39 PM

Hamlet★★★★ Through July 31 Leggett Theatre, William Peace University Something was rotten—or clearly amiss, at least—as I topped the second-floor staircase outside Leggett Theatre at Peace University last Saturday night. Aisles of chairs were set out for mourners as an exquisitely dressed party conversed, perhaps a bit too convivially, near a coffin draped with the flag of Denmark. Meanwhile, in an outfit that hardly suggested widow’s weeds, Durham singer Mysti Mayhem lustily belted out the rock anachronism “Me and Bobby McGee” from the other end of the lobby. Strange, I thought. But then, given the sinister circumstances of the death...

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Theater Review: Patrick Torres Finds a Fresh Take on an American Classic, The Glass Menagerie, at Raleigh Little Theatre

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 9:42 AM

The Glass Menagerie★★★★ Through June 26 Raleigh Little Theatre, Raleigh They’re conventions of theater criticism: no spoilers, and please, don’t give away the end. But my hand is forced when it comes to Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of The Glass Menagerie, since the conclusions artistic director Patrick Torres reaches are the most noteworthy element of the endeavor by far. Besides, given the canonical status of Tennessee Williams’s memory play in American literature classes—and its myriad productions in film and television and on the local stage—for most of us, the element of surprise left this particular text long ago. Still,...

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Theater Review: Caryl Churchill Scrambles Post-Colonial Roles in Ludicrous, Rewarding Farce Cloud 9

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 9:45 AM

Cloud 9 ★★★★ ½ Through June 25 Common Ground Theatre, Durham There are only two things missing in the opening act of Tiny Engine Theatre Company’s production of Cloud 9 at Common Ground Theatre. The first is a cheesy, sinister organ cue to underscore all the cheesy, sinister plot revelations. The second is what people used to call a lick of common sense. The latter’s absence fuels the ludicrous potboiler that begins this rewarding farce of colonialism and gender roles. The year is 1880, and the British Empire is still presumably on the rise—somewhere far from this sagging outpost in the...

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Theater Review: Two Leads Diverge in a Darkened Dive in Hughie

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 9:47 AM

Hughie ★★★★ (David Klionsky version) ★★ (Brook North version)  Through June 5 Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh A few occupations, like Formula One racing, rattlesnake farming—and acting, of all things—demand an acute, ongoing focus on the present. But in most other trades, it’s an eye for the longer term that survival favors. No one thinks, “You know, if I play my cards right, fifteen years from now I should be coming off a five-day bender in a third-rate dive somewhere in New York City.” It’s the kind of fate that happens when someone hasn’t looked ahead. But that’s where we find...

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Theater Review: In Musical Thought Experiment If/Then, There Is No Road Not Taken

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 11:39 AM

If/Then★★★ ½  Through May 29 DPAC, Durham Overthinkers of the Triangle: arise, and see If/Then at DPAC. Yes, I realize this unambiguous endorsement raises many more questions than it answers: Which night? Which seat? Invite a friend or go stag? Which restaurant—and which appetizer? Climb those decision trees. Just go. As for the rest of the region’s theatergoers? You might want to think about it a bit first. At the start, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s optimistic follow-up to 2008’s Next to Normal merely seems devoted to a different mental malady than the manic depression that was the focus...

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Announcing Open Auditions in Raleigh for the Inaugural Women's Theatre Festival

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2016 at 7:43 AM

In March, we reported on the Triangle's new Women’s Theatre Festival, which will debut this August. Conceptualized by Raleigh’s Ashley Popio and developed by a group of local women in theater, it will feature plays written and directed by women, with women composing the majority of the casts. Now, WTF has announced open auditions for anyone who wants to be a part of the festival. The auditions will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 28 at Raleigh’s Sonorous Road Theatre. Women, men, and children are all welcome to audition; sign up for an appointment at...

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Reviewing Local Independent Presenters' 2015-16 Season on Stage

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2016 at 9:20 AM

Manbites Dog Theater Manbites Dog looked to the future in a season focused on technology and humanity, but strengths that have long been a part of the company’s history were evident in its twenty-ninth year. In Durham’s haven for visionary guest directors, curated independent artists, and controversial, thought-provoking scripts, director Joseph Megel took a sobering look forward in The Tramp’s New World, Rob Jansen’s poignant, post-apocalyptic, and undeniably funny solo show. We also glimpsed the future in Mr. Burns and The Nether, where Manbites founder Jeff Storer and associate artistic director Jules Odendahl-James probed the theater of social conscience...

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Theater Review: Little Green Pig Meets Tom Waits in a Night of Boisterous, Boozy Cabaret

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 4:54 PM

The Piano Has Been Drinking: A Tom Waits Cabaret ★★★½ Friday, April 22, 8 p.m. Arcana Bar & Lounge, Durham If you’re putting on a Tom Waits cabaret—as Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern did at Mystery Brewing Company last Saturday, and will do again at Arcana in Durham on Friday—you’re going to need more than one vocalist. Actually, you’re going to need more than one band. It’s hard to believe the same mind that produced the wistful heartache ballad “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love With You” went on to pen the jaded observations and acid sentiments of...

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Theater Review: The Elephant Man Is a Theatrical Autopsy of Victorian England's Selective Morals

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 4:32 PM

The Elephant Man★★★ Theatre in the Park, Raleigh Through April 24 Perhaps the subject’s medical nature had something to do with it, but by the end of the first act of The Elephant Man at Theatre in the Park, I’d concluded it was a theatrical autopsy that stripped the title character's tale to its bones, until the last act more fully fleshed it out. It vexed me enough to send me back to Bernard Pomerance’s Tony Award-winning script from 1977—where I found skeletal scenes and underdeveloped characters, hobbled by exposition, throughout Act One. It’s hard to fault director Ira David...

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Theater Review: The Consequences of Virtual Play Laid Bare at Manbites in The Nether

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 3:51 PM

The Nether ★★★★ Manbites Dog Theater, Durham Through April 23 In The Body in Pain, Elaine Scarry writes about how technology has extended our physical abilities and senses. The hammer and handgun concentrate applied force; the telescope lengthens eyesight; microphones and loudspeakers amplify voices; bicycles and cars expand mobility. But as networked computers exponentially increase our computational, sensory, and data-gathering powers, some say the human body is becoming increasingly dislocated in the digital rush. Soon, it might be all but discarded. Jennifer Haley explores a very unsettling facet of this possibility in The Nether, her creepy 2013 sci-fi drama. Director Jules...

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Theater Review: Trapped Somewhere Between Ape and Man in Kafka's Monkey

Posted By on Thu, Apr 7, 2016 at 2:08 PM

KAFKA’S MONKEY★★★★ Common Ground Theatre, Durham Through April 9, $10–$15 History has shown that when captives address their captors, the experience can transform each party. It can even transform the cultures and times in which they live, as in the cases of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Albert Camus’s clandestine “Letters to a German Friend,” which he wrote in occupied France during World War II. But the words of the forcibly assimilated—from Southern slave narratives to the testimony of the Cherokee and Lakota—are sober reminders that transformation can also be ambiguous, corrosive, or fatal, a reality...

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Theater Review: A Star-Studded Sweeney Todd from PlayMakers Rep

Posted By on Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 4:36 PM

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET★★★ ½ Paul Green Theatre, Chapel Hill Through April 23 I was mildly aghast: noticeably tentative—and not always audible—voices, sometimes pitchy and off time? True, it was only a Facebook video preview for Sweeney Todd at PlayMakers Repertory Company, but as an online advertisement, it hardly instilled confidence in the show to come. So despite the marquee leads of Broadway’s David St. Louis and TV’s Annie Golden (Orange Is the New Black), and the up-to-now unshakable music direction of Mark Hartman, there was a somewhat larger question mark than usual hanging over...

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Broadway Composer Stephen Schwartz Halts N.C. Shows to Protest HB 2, Encourages Others to Follow

Posted By on Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 3:14 PM

When Gov. McCrory called opposition to HB 2 “political theater,” he probably didn’t foresee a response from the national theater community. But now the curtain’s going up on the state’s first professional entertainment embargo, one whose effects have the potential to change the face of theater and other live entertainment in North Carolina. It follows a flood of negative responses from businesses, institutions, and civic groups, local and international. Broadway World reported Thursday night that composer Stephen Schwartz has revoked performance rights to his musicals in North Carolina in protest of the legislation, which denies transgender people the right to use the...

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Theater Review: Revising A.R. Gurney's Love Letters Pays Off in Poignancy

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 1:31 PM

Love Letters ★★★ ½ Bare Theatre @ Sonorous Road Productions, Raleigh Through Feb. 28 Love Letters, A.R. Gurney’s unconventional epistolary drama from 1989, usually features two actors seated side by side on an otherwise empty stage, traversing the lifelong friendship of central characters Melissa and Andy through five decades of their correspondence. As the text proceeds from the illicit classroom notes and birthday cards of childhood to the deeper disclosures of high school, college, and adulthood, the challenge to an actor’s range is obvious. But in this Bare Theatre production of Love Letters, director Rebecca Blum declined that test in...

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Theater Review: Blue Sky is Politically Admirable. But What About Artistry?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 11:49 AM

Blue Sky ★★★ CAM Raleigh, Raleigh Through Feb. 14 When a playwright, a director, and actors are unable to create fully believable characters and situations, it’s sometimes hard to say where the difficulty lies. Often enough, gifted work in one or two categories can overcome the problems in a third; in a recent example, inspired performances and direction in Temple Theatre’s The Addams Family compensated for an iffy book. But it’s not so hard to say regarding Blue Sky, in a co-production from Burning Coal Theatre Company and CAM Raleigh. The discouraging words “stick figures” appeared in my notes at...

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Theater review: Vivienne Benesch's first production as artistic director of PlayMakers is a fresh, indicting take on Chekhov

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2016 at 2:11 PM

Three Sisters★★★★ 1/2 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill Through Feb. 7 In a prosperous society it’s easy to forget the taste of ashes—their acrid presence on the tongue contrasting with their lack of substance to the touch. That forgetfulness, as much as the problems of language, can make Anton Chekhov’s last three plays, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard, read like documents from a different world. In a sense, they are. By 1900, Chekhov knew he was writing at the end of an age-old Russian social order. His central characters are members of a privileged class who have coasted...

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

After three decades of white Cinderellas, Destiny Diamond breaks through the glass slipper

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 1:28 PM

Cinderella Friday, Dec. 4–Sunday, Dec. 20 Raleigh Little Theatre, Raleigh As Destiny Diamond looked around the room during the callbacks for Cinderella at Raleigh Little Theatre, she knew the odds were stacked against her. In the 31 prior productions of the holiday classic, the title role had always been sung by a soprano, and Diamond, a senior at N.C. State University, is a second alto—the lowest-pitched and rarest of female voices. Then there was the matter of race. Since 1984, Cinderella had always been portrayed by a white actor at Raleigh Little Theatre. This was the second year in a...

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

PlayMakers Repertory Company appoints Obie-winning actor and director Vivienne Benesch as its new leader

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 8:47 AM

In a press release yesterday afternoon, PlayMakers Repertory Company announced that Vivienne Benesch will become its new producing artistic director as of Jan. 1, 2016, replacing outgoing artistic director Joseph Haj. Benesch, who was chosen from group of five finalists after a six-month national search, has directed three shows at PlayMakers in the past five years. She takes the position shortly before her fourth, a production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, opens on Jan. 20. She was tapped to direct the show for the company’s current season in March, more than two months before the selection process for the new artistic...

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Theater review: A dreamlike, spiky and star-studded Antigone at Carolina Performing Arts

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 1:51 PM

Antigone★★★★ Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 Carolina Performing Arts at Memorial Hall When Juliette Binoche insists the new production of Sophocles' Antigone she stars in is really about Kreon, it sounds like the kind of counterintuitive reading actors use to freshen up classic works that seem to have run out of things to say. This 2,500-year-old mainstay of classical Greek tragedy certainly qualifies. Dozens of translations and adaptations—verse, prose, drama, opera, flamenco, on and on—have flourished in the last 150 years, by tough competition including the likes of Brecht, Heaney and Anouilh. But when the play sold out Memorial Hall Oct. 9...

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Theater review: Evan Mitchell's Masked brings commedia dell’arte to the Carrack

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 12:23 PM

MASKED: A ONE-MAN CONTEMPORARY COMMEDIA DELL’ARTE OBSESSION★★★ Saturday, Oct. 3 and 10, 8 p.m. $5 suggested donation The Carrack Modern Art 111 W. Parrish St., Durham 704-213-6666 When Evan Mitchell steps out from behind a shoji screen at one end of the Carrack, he reminds us how rarely we see fully embodied characters in this region. For many performers, acting is an enterprise that mostly takes place from the neck up. Each week, dozens of them convince audiences in theaters across the region mostly with their versatility and strength of voice and countenance. But the conventions of commedia dell’arte limit...

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Theater review: Five playwrights walk into a bar

Posted By on Mon, Sep 14, 2015 at 4:34 PM

Cary Playwrights' Forum: Bar Plays ★★★ Mac’s Tavern, Cary Thursday, Sept. 10 Five playwrights walk into a bar. By the time the waitress gets to their table, they’re seated and everything’s set up: five manuscripts, an assortment of pens and pencils and a deck of playing cards in the middle. When the waitress asks what the cards are for, they say, “We’re playing script poker.” Thankfully, a number of the jokes were better than that when five real playwrights—and a group of their friends—walked into Mac’s Tavern Thursday night. Just over an hour later, a standing-room crowd warmly applauded Bar Plays, an...

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Theater review: The middle class is under attack in Lisa D'Amour's Detroit

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2015 at 9:03 AM

Detroit ★★ ½  Cardinal Gibbons High School Through Aug. 8 In GASP Theatre Company’s production of state-of-the-suburbs drama Detroit, it’s hard to say which is more disturbing: realizing that neighborhoods like the one depicted on designer Pete Morello’s backyard set weren’t always as they are now, or acknowledging that future versions may be even more dysfunctional. When Sharon (a capable but not always audible Katie Barrett) asks early on why the word “neighbor” is still in our dictionaries, it’s clear that the middle class isn’t the only construct under attack in playwright Lisa D’Amour’s world; the whole notion of community may be going...

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Manbites Dog Theater announces 2015/16 season

Posted By on Wed, Jul 15, 2015 at 4:06 PM

Manbites Dog Theater announced its upcoming 2015/16 season today. As usual, the Durham-based company will feature four resident productions, supplemented by an “Other Voices” series of guest artists. The company’s 29th year includes encore productions of noted recent shows by StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance and The Delta Boys. The season opens in October with the regional premiere of Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, Anne Washburn’s dark comedy, in which an episode of The Simpsons slowly takes on different meanings to survivors of an apocalypse. In December, StreetSigns remounts its five-star production of Howard Craft's Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel...

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Local plays about video game culture and Eugene O’Neill win national recognition

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2015 at 11:02 AM

Local playwrights Adrienne Earle Pender and Allan Maule have travel plans to make. This fall, Pender will be the third recipient of a new artist residency at the Eugene O’Neill Foundation, and Maule’s EverScape will be produced in August at the New York International Fringe Festival. Raleigh's Theatre in the Park has produced two of Pender's plays: The Rocker and Somewhere in Between. Her work has also been presented at the National Black Theatre Festival, Edward Albee’s Last Frontier Theatre Conference and the Drama Book Shop in New York. But it was luck, she says, that led her to the...

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Devra Thomas to leave Common Ground Theatre

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2015 at 4:18 PM

A change in leadership is in the works at Durham’s Common Ground Theatre, a performance and teaching space that has nurtured and supported many Triangle theater artists. On July 1, a new executive director, Shelby Hahn, will replace Devra Thomas, who is relocating with her family to Morehead City. “Common Ground serves a really unique purpose within the Triangle theater community,” Thomas told the INDY on Friday. “It was a joy to be able to serve that community by helping people figure out how to do theater, figure out what they wanted to do and what they wanted to say.” In...

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