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Byron Woods 

Help wanted

Sometimes you get a different story than the one you were looking for. New World Stage's artistic director Scott Pardue was telling me that an injury playwright Erin Pushman had suffered was forcing the company to postpone a staged reading of Absolute Ceiling to the New Year.

Then Pardue told me he was leaving the state--and the company he founded three years ago. With the end of his contract as a programmer with BASF in Research Triangle Park, Pardue plans to move to Detroit, where his wife, Lisa, started Wayne State's graduate program in theater last year.

Up to now, New World Stage has devoted itself to working with regional playwrights to develop new works, through one-on-one dramaturgy, improvisational exercises with actors, staged readings and full productions--a process the group calls "The Play Factory." Doing so has made New World one of a very small handful of theaters in the area to pay any attention at all to talented--and underproduced--local writers.

Judging by the company's most recent production, larger audiences have just begun to find New World Stage. Capacity crowds for Settling Sophia embraced the process, and stayed to workshop the script in lively conversations with the playwright and director. As Pardue prepares to leave, New World is coming into its own.

The company's board met last weekend to answer the question of its future.

The "help wanted" sign is out. They're looking for a new artistic director.

The pay, as with most regional independent companies, will be non-existent to start. The intrinsic rewards, as anyone can tell you, are substantial. The board is looking for someone with the abilities to carry on the company's mission: someone with the theatrical and literary abilities to meet and work with playwrights from across the state, to help them develop works still in process and to produce those works in staged readings and full productions.

First day of work, according to managing director Flynt Burton, is Jan. 12, 2004, when the company's production of Cold Kill begins rehearsal.

Up for the challenge? Get the resume together. Then give Burton a call, at 260-4405. EndBlock

Reviews & Openings
OTHER NOTABLE OPENINGS:
Chicago, Broadway Series South, BTI Center, thru Nov. 16; Fame, Broadway at Duke, Nov. 17, 684-4444; Dreaming in Color 2003, Leggett Theater, Peace College, Raleigh, thru Tue. Nov. 18, 508-2051; Tape and Variations on the Death of Trotsky, Duke Players Lab, Branson Theater, East Campus, Nov. 13-16, 684-4444; Crimes of the Heart, Odyssey Stage, Chapel Hill Senior Center, 400 S. Elliot Road, Nov 14-23, 732-2408.

REVIEWS:
****1/2 Shakespeare's R&J, StreetSigns--Held Over! This season standout, an imaginatively directed and beautifully acted little gem of a show, constitutes a clandestine production of Romeo & Juliet a quartet of boys at a military academy put on after-hours. Regional newcomer (and former Dawsons Creek regular) Akil soulfully groans his way through the Romeo role as Student One, an agent provocateur whose voice recalls both Dave Matthews and Nat King Cole. Francis Sarnie IV's Juliet is commendably understated, and Christopher Salazar and Ronnie Cruz ably aid in a constellation of supporting roles. Joe Calarco's four-person adaptation of Romeo & Juliet is an achievement, a split-focus Shakespeare that doesn't get eclipsed itself when used to illuminate a fundamentally different world. Don't miss it. (Last two shows: Thu, Nov 13 and Sat, Nov. 15, 8 pm. Swain Hall, UNC. $12 Thu, $14 Sat, Student/Senior/Group rates available. 843-3865.)

***1/2 Hedda Gabler, Deep Dish Theater--You'll be arguing about this one all the way home. Is Hedda--a woman stuck in 1890s Norwegian society, whose uses her analytical gifts to damage everyone in sight--a sociopath, victim, early feminist, or all of the above? Do Jon Robin Baitz' adaptation and Paul Frellick's direction give an incomplete portrait or an incomplete soul? Why do supporting actors Geoffrey Zeger, Katja Hill and the gaunt Mark Jeffrey Miller suggest, from the start, a quickly fading, evil bouquet out of Baudelaire? And to what degree does Dorothy Brown's icy title performance, and her character's preoccupations with forbidden freedom and power, resonate with Camus' Caligula, Weiss' Sade--and the traits of certain spiders? (Thu-Sat 8 pm, Sun 3pm, through Nov. 22. University Mall, Estes Dr. and 15-501, Chapel Hill. $14, $12 seniors, $10 students. 968-1515.)

***1/2 King Hedley II, NCSU University Theatre--August Wilson intended this as an indictment against the cultural, financial and emotional dead-ends a fractured Pittsburgh family--and the urban African-American community--faced in the Reagan 80's: economic apartheid, political corruption, domestic violence, religious superstition, systemic racism, a lapse in ethics and the unending cycle of retribution and violence in the inner city. But in trying to conquer all these themes--in just under three hours--King Hedley veers at times between epic and filibuster.

Damion Sledge ably conveys the pain and frustration of the title character, and he's supported by a strong ensemble. Still, Patricia Caple's direction doesn't entirely tame the lengthy soapbox monologues that which riddle the work. Nor does it ameliorate Wilson's ridiculously overwrought conclusion. (Wed-Sat, 8pm; Sun, 3 pm. Thru Nov. 16. Thompson Theatre, NC State. $14, $12 Seniors/Students/Faculty/Staff/Alumni, $6 NC State Students. 515-1100.)

***1/2 Having Our Say, Triad Stage--If you're among the few who didn't catch the multiple stagings here in recent years, this production's worth the drive to Greensboro. Marjorie Johnson and Edloe Blackwell ably mix the vinegar with the sweet as the centenarian Delaney sisters, recounting life lessons from a Southern childhood under Jim Crow. But didn't Emily Mann once write a play whose home truths on racism were a lot less cozy and comforting--and a lot closer to home than these? (Sun,Tue-Thu, 7:30 pm; Fri-Sat, 8 pm; Sun, 2pm. Thru Nov. 23. 232 South Elm, Greensboro. $37-$12. 336-274-0067.)

**1/2 Rainmaker, Temple Theater--When it comes down to two--Kim Cozart's love-starved Lizzie and Jerry Sipp's equally clueless suitor, Deputy File, or Cozart with rainmaker Thomas Dalton--all's well in this against-the-odds drama about a family looking for a reason to believe on a failing western farm in time of drought. But the chemistry remained underdeveloped--in a show that hadn't quite gelled the day we saw it--in the almost believably scrapping siblings Jimmy and Noah, and H.C., the too reticent father. Dalton's Burt Lancaster interpretation is directed in places like musical theater; like Triad Stage's Tommy Lee Jones take on the character last month, it convinces only in the late innings. (Thu, 1:30 pm & 8 pm; Fri-Sat, 8 pm; Sun, 2:30. Thru Nov. 23. 120 Carthage St., Sanford. $18, $15 groups, $10 students. 774-4155.)

** How the Other Half Loves, Raleigh Little Theater--Playwright Alan Ayckbourn loves dreaming up impossible scenarios to stage, and then pulling them off with elan. Here the playwright, director Kevin Ferguson and designer Rick Young literally superimpose two living rooms in separate houses upon each other, as two morning arguments concurrently unfold in different households. Then, they effectively play out two abysmal dinner parties on different nights in different houses--simultaneously, at the same dinner table--by visiting indignities upon a third couple who are hapless guests at both.

So far, so very, very clever. But when these theatrical logic problems insufficiently mask a pedestrian marital infidelity plot, we're ultimately not as intrigued by how Ayckbourn is going to do it as why he chose to instead. Which is a shame given the acting in this first-rate cast, largely wasted on this material. Particularly delectable was Jack Prather's perpetually fuddled businessman, a pitch-perfect tribute to that 1960s comic landmark, The Goon Show.

Obviously the amusement value of alcohol, boorish husbands and domestic brawls has changed since 1969, when the script was written. Director and playwright further miscalculate when suddenly unveiling, without context or explanation, a helpless housewife several stages beyond post-traumatic stress--just for physical comedy. These are the jokes? (Wed-Sat, 8 pm; Sun, 3pm. Thru Nov. 23. 301 Pogue St., Raleigh. $20-$5. 821-4579.)

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