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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Design flaws bedevil Death by Design

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 2:08 PM

DEATH BY DESIGN ★★ 1/2 NCSU TheatreFest through June 29 Since frames and red herrings are par for the course in mystery novels, the genre’s aficionados were mostly unfazed when amateur detectives Jane Marple and Jessica Fletcher were recently arrested in a coordinated sting operation. (Miss Marple’s exploits have long been immortalized in the novels of Agatha Christie; Fletcher sleuthed on TV's “Murder She Wrote.”) But thriller fans were shocked—shocked!—when the pair subsequently confessed to heading a sophisticated murder-for-money scheme over much of the last century. “Oh, we didn’t do the first few in,” Marple said in a press conference...

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Theater review: Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 7:57 AM

Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo ★★★ Little Green Pig at Manbites Dog Theater Through June 7 May was a big month for Durham’s Monica Byrne. On May 20, Crown Publishing Group issued her speculative fiction novel The Girl in the Road, which came armed with big-time blurbs by the likes of Neil Gaiman. (See our review.) Just two days later, Byrne’s latest play, staged by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern and directed by Jay O’Berski, opened at Manbites Dog Theater. Both works are connected by the theme of polyamory, which, in the bawdy and anarchic Tarantino’s Yellow Speedo (no relation to Quentin), fuels an...

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Theater review: PlayMakers' Hold These Truths

Posted By on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 7:59 PM

Hold These Truths ★★★★★PlayMakers at Kenan Theatre Through April 27 PlayMakers concludes a season remarkable for its thoughtfulness on big topics, whether timely or timeless, with a PRC2 Series production. Hold These Truths spotlights a particularly sordid, shamefully little-known episode in 20th-century American history, and offers a lens through which to look at more immediate concerns. In the nationalistic war fever after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the racism of western states toward Japanese immigrants and their American children turned rabid. It was only intensified by the U.S. government’s decision to strip Japanese-Americans in states along the...

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Theater review: a threadbare Lily at Temple Theatre

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 3:55 PM

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily★★ Temple Theatre through Apr. 6 templeshows.com All right, I’m convinced. There is an absolutely ripping yarn to be made from the convergence of the following characters. The first three are historical; the latter three, fictive: Lillie Langtry, d.b.a. “The Jersey Lily,” renowned Victorian actress (and paramour to future King Edward VII), her confidante, Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, Abdul Karim, a controversial, enigmatic and decidedly personal Indian attendant to Queen Victoria, arch-fiend Professor James Moriarty, detective Sherlock Holmes, and  his faithful, long-time associate, Dr. John Watson. I only wish I was nearly...

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Patrick Torres appointed artistic director at Raleigh Little Theatre

Posted By on Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Raleigh Little Theater has announced this morning the appointment of Patrick Torres as its new artistic director. Torres will be the theater's 14th artistic director since its founding in 1936, and the first person of color chosen for that position. The selection comes on the heels of a national search, following the death of longtime artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons in May, 2013. An award-winning arts educator and director, Torres comes to Raleigh from Austin, Texas, where he has served as middle and high school program director for Creative Action, an arts education organization, since 2011. His production of Cormac McCarthy’s The Sunset...

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Theater review: LEO (The Anti-Gravity Show)

Posted By on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 5:46 PM

LEO (The Anti-Gravity Show) ★★★★ NCSU Center Stage at Titmus Theatre  Through March 23 It’s one of those ingeniously simple concepts. Build an open-sided room, laid on its side so that a light bulb “hangs” perpendicular to the left wall. On an adjacent video screen, rotate the live action 90 degrees to the right, so that the wall becomes the ceiling and the floor, a wall. Insert one acrobatic actor/dancer into the room and, for the next hour or so, have him execute choreography that looks equally amazing, in different ways, across both screwy spatial planes. Reap the delighted laughter...

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Theater review: Evita at DPAC

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 6:07 PM

EVITA ★★★1/2 DPAC Through March 16 Evita is not your typical musical, and Eva Perón is not your typical heroine. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s mythologizing tale of the ambitious woman who rose from poverty to become Argentina’s adored first lady is more of an operatic biography than a plot-driven show, and Eva is more divisive than likeable. This means that the touring production of Evita currently playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center is a reprieve from typical Broadway fare—it’s darker, more complex and filled with talk of morality. But, in an exposition-heavy show about political machinations and social climbing, it’s...

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Neal Bell on In Secret, a new film adaptation of his stage play

Posted By on Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 11:18 AM

After its professional New York premiere, it took almost 17 years for Neal Bell’s stage play Thérèse Raquin to make it to the big screen in the form of the recently-released In Secret, directed by Charlie Stratton and starring Elizabeth Olsen and Oscar Isaac. But for Bell, the result was worth the wait. “It’s exciting and strange,” says Bell, a professor of theater studies at Duke University. “I hadn’t seen the movie until it opened, so I didn’t know what to expect. But I was really surprised and delighted to see that it came out so well.” The film came about after...

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Love's Infrastructure, a striking theatrical collaboration of Torry Bend and Bombadil

Posted By on Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 5:45 PM

Love's Infrastructure Duke Performances @ PSI Theatre,  Durham Arts Council Closed Jan. 26 Let’s start with the most striking thing about Love’s Infrastructure, the new collaboration between puppeteer Torry Bend and pop-folk trio Bombadil: how the show works. Imagine watching The Muppet Show while simultaneously seeing all the hubbub behind the scenes. While Bombadil plays music, Bend’s crew of designers, managers and puppeteers creates a complex puppet show, projecting the results at the center of the stage, while the “making of”—sets, puppetry, cameras and computers—spills out behind the screen. The delightful opening scene, for example, shows the sun—a round...

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Forget Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin should go back to politics

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 11:14 AM

This is an interesting moment for the playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. After months in limbo, his HBO series The Newsroom was just renewed for a third and final season. This should excite hardcore Newsroom fans, but there's another opportunity we'd like to see him pursue—his long-promised adaptation of Andrew Young's tell-all account of John Edwards' downfall, The Politician. Sorkin acquired the rights to Young's book around the time of its publication in 2010, with the final stages of the Edwards drama—the death of Elizabeth Edwards and the besieged politician's subsequent trial for campaign finance fraud and his subsequent...

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NC Theatre's Elf is lovely but forgettable holiday fare

At Raleigh's Memorial Auditorium through Sunday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 1:38 PM

While I'm not a die-hard fan of the 2003 Will Ferrell-in-tights holiday film Elf, I enjoyed it enough to notice all the times the stage musical version produced by NC Theatre strained to recreate a big laugh line from the film, or introduced some new element to the plot that didn't click. The musical overall is like a beautifully wrapped gift with a pair of socks inside: It's lovely to look at, but ultimately forgettable. As the Santa-raised elf-man Buddy, Will Blum from Broadway's The Book of Mormon affects a high, childlike voice that sometimes sounds more like Michael Jackson...

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A novice attempts to understand Cats at new NC Theatre production

Through Sunday at Memorial Auditorium

Posted By on Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 7:14 PM

Curtis Brown Grizabella (Jennifer Shrader) confronts kitty mortality in "Cats." CATS YMMV NC Theatre Through Oct. 13 When I was a kid, my parents used to read me T.S. Eliot's poems from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats; as a teen, I owned a best-of-Andrew Lloyd Webber CD before I got into more Sondheim-y composers. And yet, I had never seen Cats, Webber's massively long-running staging of Eliot's poems, until NC Theatre's production at Duke Energy Center's Memorial Auditorium. The reason was simple: By the time I was old enough to go to stage shows myself, I had already...

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Laughter overflows in Theatre Raleigh's dystopian romp Urinetown

Posted By on Fri, Aug 9, 2013 at 5:23 PM

URINETOWN  ★★★★Theatre Raleigh/Hot Summer NightsThrough Aug. 11 Theatre Raleigh’s checkered 2013 season has featured some of the best—and worst—work on regional stages this year. It’s a relief, therefore, to report that Wednesday night’s performance of the acerbic 2001 musical URINETOWN represented a nimble, artistic 180-degree turn back into fair territory. A couple of student groups have tackled this savvy, self-aware satire which manages to send up corporate corruption and politics as usual—and idealism, populism and a host of sappy musical theater conventions—after Raleigh Little Theatre’s regional premiere of the work in 2007. But no one’s done it better than...

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Monday, July 8, 2013

What Every Girl Should Know to play NYC Fringe Festival; Indiegogo campaign begins

Posted By on Mon, Jul 8, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Monica ByrneMargaret Sanger, in the NYC Fringe program ad for WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOWAfter its award-winning premiere in 2012, WHAT EVERY GIRL SHOULD KNOW, Durham playwright Monica Byrne’s speculative drama based on the history of birth control in the United States, is getting an extended life this summer. The work will be presented in August at the New York International Fringe Festival, running for five performances Aug. 15—24 at The Robert Moss Theatre in lower Manhattan. A fundraising campaign supporting the production was launched this morning on indiegogo.com. Set in a Lower East Side Catholic reformatory in 1914, the...

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Moving testimony from former slaves: Bare Theatre's Let Them Be Heard

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 4:42 PM

Jason BaileyPhilip B. Smith and Justin Smith in LET THEM BE HEARDLET THEM BE HEARDBare TheatreStagville State Historic Site7, 8 and 9 p.m., June 14 and 15 One of the closest experiences any of us will have to rival time travel is taking place these nights just after dark in Horton Grove, a verdant section in Stagville, a state historic site several miles out Old Oxford Highway. Prior to the Civil War, Stagville held the dubious distinction of being the largest plantation in North Carolina, and one of the largest in the United States: a spread some 47 square miles...

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Update: Longtime regional director Haskell Fitz-Simons dies at 64

Posted By on Mon, May 13, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Raleigh Little TheatreHaskell Fitz-SimonsUPDATE May 14 5:00pm: The funeral for Haskell Fitz-Simons' will be Tuesday, May 21 at 4 p.m. at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 1520 Canterbury Road, Raleigh. A reception will follow in the church's fellowship hall. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Raleigh Little Theatre or Wake County Animal Shelter. Haskell Fitz-Simons, the longtime artistic director of Raleigh Little Theatre, died last night at UNC Hospitals following a lengthy battle with lymphoma. He was 64. The Chapel Hill native had served as a director at the prominent Raleigh community theater for...

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Friday, May 10, 2013

A loopy musical send-up with a heart: this Drowsy Chaperone's no sleeper

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Curtis BrownShe doesn't really want to show off: Paige Faure as unwilling Broadway bombshell Janet Van De Graaff, in THE DROWSY CHAPERONETHE DROWSY CHAPERONENorth Carolina TheatreThrough May 12 Musical theater fans can be quite rigid in their tastes, and even more so once they’ve reached a certain age. Take this tart little number, whom I encountered the other night in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Mere moments from the opening curtain, he was already griping to me about the long-term decline of the American musical—and at a North Carolina Theatre show, no less: They’re too disappointing. Too long. And then there are...

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

(Far) too much of a good thing: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at DPAC

Posted By on Thu, May 2, 2013 at 6:43 PM

(c) Joan MarcusFashion risk? Wade McCollum, Scott Willis and Bryan West in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERTPRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERTDurham Performing Arts CenterThrough May 5 Its characters may or may not be the kind of folks they used to warn some of us about back on the farm. But PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT is most definitely the kind of show they warned me about in grad school. “Beware of spectacle,” one theater teacher said. “Sure, it’s flashy. And it’s undeniably effective—in the short term. "But as the audience acclimates to it, it takes greater and greater dosages just...

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Making Stravinsky human through spoken word and song

Posted By on Sat, Apr 27, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Spring TrainingPRC2Kenan TheatreCloses April 28 Universes, the Bronx-based performance troupe that fuses spoken word, song, rhythm and theater, epitomizes the concept of arts-as-multidisciplinary. The performers who comprise Universes—all of whom are persons of color—serve as storytellers and poets and music-makers. They're also social critics who aim to give voice to the silenced. And, for the most part, they succeed in doing so without being too heavy-handed. That’s no easy feat. Their newest piece, Spring Training, currently has its world premiere at PRC2 in Chapel Hill. Commissioned by Carolina Performing Arts and PlayMakers Repertory Company as part of their Rite of...

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Contrived horrors after fathers never come back home: Young Jean Lee's LEAR at Duke Theater Studies

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 7:32 PM

LEARDuke Theater StudiesSheafer Lab Theaterclosed April 14Les Todd/Duke Theater StudiesFaye Goodwin as Cordelia, in Young Jean Lee's LEARIn the current PlayMakers Rep production of Cabaret, would-be American novelist Clifford Bradshaw says that 1932 Berlin is “like a bunch of kids playing in their room—getting wilder and wilder—and knowing any minute their parents are going to come home.” Young Jean Lee’s LEAR has a similar feel to it, with one marked exception: In this case, the parents are never coming home—not after King Lear and Gloucester, the fathers of the quintet we ultimately see on stage, have both been stripped of...

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

A problematic Elektra, on the trail of a generational dilemma

Posted By on Sat, Apr 13, 2013 at 10:17 AM

ELEKTRA2 stars (out of 5) Chip RodgersMeredith Studio TheaterThrough Apr. 14 I love it when a theater review heralds the arrival of a new artist or a new work of art. Sorry, but this isn’t one of those. Instead, we have more of a report from the road that director / adaptor / designer Chip Rodgers is currently exploring. His certainly audacious—and, at times, extremely frustrating—new adaptation of the ancient Greek drama ELEKTRA, whose workshop production runs through Sunday at Meredith College’s studio theater, is a work that can only be said to be in process. Still, presently, it’s headed...

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Embrace your inner goddess: 50 Shades of musical kink

Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 1:46 PM

Photo by Michael BrosilowUnless you live under a rock, you’ve likely heard of E.L. James’ best-selling erotic romance series Fifty Shades of Grey. The trilogy had less than illustrious origins: The first book began as a piece of self-published online Twilight fan fiction. But the series—known as “mommy porn” by some—catapulted to fame thanks to the power of word-of-mouth and the thrill of the transgressive. For many readers, the tale of the sadomasochistic relationship between young Anastasia Steele and sexy millionaire Christian Grey was their first foray into smutty literature. To date, the Fifty Shades series has sold more than...

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Lush life: Anything Goes is a dazzling, old-fashioned romp

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 9:10 AM

Photo by Joan Marcus ANYTHING GOES* * * * 1/2 stars@ DPACThrough March 24 “Times have changed,” croons dazzling nightclub star Reno Sweeney in the title song of Anything Goes. “The world has gone mad today and good’s bad today.” Maybe so, but the touring production of this Broadway revival shows that some good things have staying power. This comic tale of romance and madcap hijinks aboard a luxury liner originally opened on Broadway in 1934, starring the legendary Ethel Merman as Sweeney. Nearly 80 years later, Cole Porter’s delicious songs set against an updated book by Timothy Crouse and...

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Local playwright Monica Byrne lands major book deal with first novel

Posted By on Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 9:10 PM

D.L. AndersonDurham playwright Monica ByrneCrown Publishing Group, a division of publishing giant Random House, has signed a major book deal with Durham playwright Monica Byrne for the rights to publish her first novel, The Girl in the Road, in 2014. Details of the arrangement were released over the weekend on the website for Publishers Marketplace, an industry publication. “I wanted to scream,” Byrne recalls when she received news of the agreement at the end of last week. “[My agent] was excited, everyone was so excited, and so pleased by the deal, which was considerable.” Crown signed what Byrne characterized as...

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Monday, March 4, 2013

The most amazing season, eh? A closer look at DPAC's new Broadway line-up

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Photo by Joan MarcusThe Book of Mormon comes to Durham Feb. 11-23, 2014.To summarize the lineup of touring Broadway shows coming through the Durham Performing Arts Center’s new season as succinctly as possible: Hope you like Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sir Andrew’s work may be found in three of the seven new shows announced at DPAC’s SunTrust Broadway Preview Event on Friday, specifically the touring version of the recently-closed revival of Evita, the 2011 West End musical version of The Wizard of Oz film with new songs by Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and a whole concert featuring songs from Lloyd...

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