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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Theater Review: After His Audacious Hamlet, Director Jeremy Fiebig Makes Another Theatrical Gamble in King Lear

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 2:08 PM

King Lear★★ Through Sep. 24 William Peace University’s Leggett Theatre, Raleigh There’s a moment near the end of King Lear when the blind Earl of Gloucester wonders if he’s been misled. Though he has asked a companion to lead him to the edge of a dramatic precipice, the ground underfoot seems less than mountainous. Regrettably, this joint production by Raleigh’s Honest Pint Theatre and Fayetteville’s Sweet Tea Shakespeare left us feeling much the same way. By conspicuously lowering the play's stakes, director Jeremy Fiebig reduces Shakespeare’s theatrical Everest to something nearly unbelievable: an ultimately cheerful jaunt around a rustic barn. Last...

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Theater Review: Count Dispels the Anesthetic of Distance from Death Row

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 1:30 PM

Count★★★½ Closed Aug. 27 Kenan Theatre, Chapel Hill Distance is a powerful anesthetic. The farther we live from neighborhoods blighted by the ammoniac stench of a commercial hog farm’s waste lagoons, for example, the less likely we are to feel their pain. If we never see the bodies crippled by black lung, which is on the rise again among Appalachian coal miners, or the stolen adolescence of foreign textile workers, it’s easier for us to deny their reality. Count, the profoundly disquieting new docudrama by Lynden Harris, makes it clear that the same is true of capital punishment, particularly the...

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Theater Review: A Southern Baby Shower Goes Off the Rails in Sweet Tea and Baby Dreams

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 2:04 PM

Sweet Tea and Baby Dreams★★½ Through Sunday, August 13 Meredith College's Jones Studio Theatre, Raleigh It was a split decision on a show that first got me into theater criticism, twenty-four years ago—a production so problematic, of a new script so promising, that I was convinced critics would focus on the former and disregard the latter. So I wrote a different opinion. Someone decided it was worth publishing. Things, as they say, progressed from there. I’m experiencing a bit of déjà vu while considering Sweet Tea and Baby Dreams, Maribeth McCarthy’s dramedy about the worst possible baby shower in the most Southern...

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Manbites Dog Theater Is Closing After Its 2017-18 Season, Turning Into an Artist-Support Organization

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 3:35 PM

Manbites Dog Theater, the region’s oldest independent theater company, has announced plans to close and sell its theater building on Foster Street at the end of its upcoming 2017-18 season. The news shocked the area’s artistic community, coming one week after the venerated company announced the details of its thirty-first—and now, final—season as a producing organization. In a press release on Tuesday evening, Manbites Dog’s board of directors framed the decision as a transition from the first two stages of the company’s life, as an itinerant theater troupe that found a stable venue in downtown Durham in 1998, to its...

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 4:10 PM

Dogfight ★★★ Through Sunday, July 30 North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, Raleigh Because local companies regularly present regional and state premieres, we see a refreshing collection of new plays in the Triangle each season. But that's never been the case with musicals, which is understandable. They're exponentially more expensive to stage and larger companies have a vested interest in minimizing risk. When touring productions stick to proven Broadway hits and local producers don’t spend much time off Broadway, we get big-ticket shows like Spamalot and The King & I instead of overlooked gems like The Fortress of Solitude or...

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Theater Review: Struck's Promising Script Goes Awry When It Doesn't Trust the Audience to Grasp Its Nuances

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 2:48 PM

Struck ★★½ Through Sunday, July 2 Kennedy Theatre, Raleigh At first, Struck playwright Sandy Rustin seems to have a solid premise well in hand. Her script takes on the unforeseen consequence of a recent advance in social justice, one we can’t disclose without spoiling the plot. A striking, unexpected twist at its center commendably reframes the narrative, forcing characters and audience to confront a little of the evil in the world. Actor Emily Kron plays Vera Resnick, an appealing, mildly neurotic New York actor who’s convinced the universe is trying to tell her something when college student James (Liam Yates) runs...

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Theater Review: The Promise of Justice Theater Project's Porgy and Bess Shines Through the Struggles of Late Personnel Changes

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 4:11 PM

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess ★★★ Through Sunday, June 25 Umstead Park United Church of Christ, Raleigh When a lead singer is forced to bow out of a performance due to a family medical emergency, we try to catch the show at a different time. But in regional theater’s busiest June in years, there was no other option for Justice Theater Project’s version of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. The good news is that understudy Juan Isler blossomed in the role of Porgy, the good man of Catfish Row, during last Sunday’s matinee. His mellow baritone evoked tender sentiments in...

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

ADF Review: The Oldest Piece Made the Biggest Splash in the American Dance Festival's Opening Night Performance

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 2:34 PM

Opening Night Performance ★★★ ½ June 15, 2017 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham Though it was the evening's oldest piece by far, Minus 16 (1999), Ohad Naharin’s Gaga dance manifesto, was among the freshest works in the American Dance Festival’s 2017 opening night performance. That's not entirely surprising; Naharin intended Gaga to shatter modern dance conventions and pose continuing new challenges to his dancers and audiences. Clearly, it was still working Thursday night, when the sharp young troupe from the Charlotte Ballet (the rebranded North Carolina Dance Theatre, which performed during ADF’s first season in Durham) eagerly embraced the dance’s by-now iconic section...

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Theater Review: The Stonewater Rapture Grapples with Teen Sexuality in a Small, Conservative Town with a Big High School Football Program

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 12:08 PM

The Stonewater Rapture ★★★ Through Friday, June 23 Imurj, Raleigh When playwright Doug Wright focuses on two teenagers grappling with their sexuality and their consciences in a repressive religious culture, The Stonewater Rapture seems like a modern-day (but non-musical) Texas update of Spring Awakening. That’s particularly the case when, in Aggregate Theatre Company's production at Imurj, the heart-rendingly earnest Carlyle (Lexie Braverman), a young girl raised in a house so strict The Scarlet Letter is contraband, assures Whitney (Matthew Hager), a torn preacher’s kid, that they will surely be forgiven if they sample each other’s forbidden fruits. But as both are exposed...

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Theater Review: The Amusing Tea with Edie & Fitz Strains to Make Hay From a Gin-Soaked Dust-Up Between Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 10:19 AM

Tea with Edie & Fitz★★★ Through June 18 N.C. State's TheatreFEST, Raleigh When youth conspicuously throws itself at age, a stratagem or two is usually involved. Whether or not brash Jazz Age chronicler F. Scott Fitzgerald actually admired the literary achievements of patrician The Age of Innocence novelist Edith Wharton, he certainly envied her financial success and old-money social connections among Manhattan’s upper crust. So, the stories say, he literally flung himself at her feet, declaring at least a belletristic ardor during a chance encounter at Scribner’s. That—plus a signed copy of The Great Gatsby, hand-delivered—got Fitzgerald an invitation to...

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Theater Review: Matilda the Musical Is Sweetly Subversive and Secretly Heady

Posted By on Fri, May 26, 2017 at 5:09 PM

Matilda the Musical★★★★ Through Sunday, May 28 Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh We not only have the power to tell our stories and those the wide world hands us; we can edit and rewrite them as well. Count those among the heady takeaways from Matilda the Musical, the sweetly subversive musical whose kinetic, touring Royal Shakespeare Company production closes Sunday at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, courtesy of North Carolina Theatre and Broadway Series South. Adaptor Dennis Kelly’s 2010 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel is a broadside against a number of present-day discontents, and satirical songwriter Tim Minchin’s lyrics are the works of...

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Theater Review: Finding Neverland Turns a Tragedy into a Funny, Flouncy, Bouncy Crowd-Pleaser

Posted By on Thu, May 25, 2017 at 11:18 AM

Finding Neverland★★★★ Through Sunday, May 28 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham The story of Peter Pan has never wavered in the popular imagination. That’s partly because its case for the necessity of imagination rings true universally and eternally, and partly because its premise was built to prove itself with time. Playwright and author J.M. Barrie dreamed of a gamine boy who would never grow up, but we’ve actually watched him not growing up for 113 years and counting—first onstage, and then, at regular intervals, in notable books, movies, cartoons, and musicals. Given this relentless exposure, it’s surprising that it took...

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Theater Review: For Better and Worse, Hunchback Flees the Realm of the Well Made Play for Wilder Pastures

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 4:11 PM

Hunchback★★★ Through May 20 Walltown Children’s Theatre, Durham Kenneth Burke once compared Dadaism to a child mimicking a disabled man hobbling down a street—not out of sympathy or mockery, but sheer curiosity. There’s more than a whisper of Dada in Hunchback, the devised work replacing the adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch originally slated as Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern’s season closer. Among disjunctive sequences, Dana Marks’s character entertainingly deconstructs a TED Talk when she removes everything except the nouns from John Berger’s essay “Why Look at Animals?” Before that, Germain Choffart’s suave opening tribute to Julio Iglesias is...

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Theater Review: Curious Accidents & Unintended Consequences Explores the Dramatic, Not Comical, Side of Improv

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 3:30 PM

Curious Accidents & Unintended Consequences★★★ Through May 20 Research Triangle High School, Raleigh By now, it’s a set piece in action-adventure films: the sequence where two protagonists escape from a hundred-foot well by crouching, back to back, and walking their way up the walls. Director J. Chachula’s intriguing new theatrical experiment with Flying Machine Theatre Company is a lot like that. The long-time Meisner instructor and improvisational comedy maven has been teaching both Meisner methods and improv comedy to a sextet of actors in recent months. The goal is improvisational theater, where actors explore the dramatic instead of the comic potential...

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dance Review: Rabble & Twine's The Mesoplanets Shines in Multimedia Atmosphere but Needs Stronger Movement

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 3:51 PM

Rabble and Twine: The Mesoplanets★★ Saturday, May 6 Living Arts Collective, Durham When the music, projections, and visual design of a dance performance are as strong as those in Rabble & Twine’s The Mesoplanets, the most recent offering from Durham Independent Dance Artists, it’s disappointing when the choreography lags well behind. But the polish and flashes of imagination that we repeatedly experienced during a drolly narrated guided tour of our interplanetary B-team—ten moons, asteroids and dwarf planets selected from the host that meander throughout or at the edges of our solar system—came for the most part from the costume and...

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Common Ground Theatre Is Gone, But Some of Its Resources and Its Role Live on in Walltown Children's Theatre

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 1:53 PM

Cynthia Penn-Halal is beaming as she stands amid the clutter of construction at Walltown Children’s Theatre. The company’s executive director points out a neighborhood worker painting the wooden side rails on new risers for the audience, while theatrical carpenter Jeff Alguire puts the finishing touches on the technical booth he’s made out of what was once the baptistry in a former church building on Berkeley Street. “I’ve wanted to do this since 2005,” Penn-Halal says of a monthlong project that has transformed the main room of her facility into a commercial-grade black box theater, capable of hosting the region’s...

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Theater Review: In Marjorie Prime, Human Replicas Help the Living, But at What Cost?

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 4:27 PM

Marjorie Prime ★★★ ½ Through May 13 Manbites Dog Theater, Durham The theory of the “uncanny valley” has taken on increasing importance in recent years. It refers to the phenomenon that human replicas prompt feelings of distaste and distrust when they  look, talk, act or move like human beings, but not quite. The idea has become a subject of significant research and the subject of films like Ex Machina, television shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, and plays including Francesca Talenti’s 2013 drama The Uncanny Valley at UNC and Marjorie Prime, now at Manbites Dog Theater. But the concept is actually...

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Justice Theater Project and Young Students Band Together Against Arts Funding Cuts

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 10:13 AM

Justice Theater Project's Forum Theatre Workshop Saturday, April 22 Umstead Park United Church of Christ, Raleigh A plastic, gold-painted crown isn’t part of the standard-issue uniform for public school principals. But it somehow fits the character who sits at a desk on the dais at the Umstead Park United Church of Christ. After reading a sticky note handed to her by a lackey, she picks up a phone and imperiously announces on the school’s public address system, “There will be no more art and chorus from now on.” Then her assistants walk across the stage and confiscate the drawings, art...

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Theater Review: In On Golden Pond, Stage Veterans Contemplate What's Gone Before and What's to Come

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 11:46 AM

On Golden Pond ★★★½ Through April 23 Theatre in the Park, Raleigh The thought, though it’s more than a touch morbid, applies as much to summer idylls as it does to theatrical productions, regardless of their ambition or achievement: only a finite number is allotted to any of us. What comes after is, at best, unclear. Playwright Ernest Thompson’s family drama became a part of motion picture history when the Oscar-winning film version, a box-office behemoth with Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, and Jane Fonda, became the second-highest grossing movie of 1981. (The top? Raiders of the Lost Ark). A television adaptation...

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Theater Review: Durham Newcomer Addled Muse Fire Theater Has Cirque Chops. Now It's Time to Build on the Theater Side.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 2:06 PM

Addled Muse Fire Theater: Purgatoire★★★ Saturday, April 15 Durham Central Park, Durham Theater begets theater, dance begets dance. After a group of artists honing their craft coalesce around a director, choreographer, or company, they branch out to start practices of their own. The same is true of cirque and flow arts; a brief online search now finds more than half a dozen regional groups and practitioners devoted to the style of eccentric aerial and land-based acrobatics and choreography originally championed locally by Raleigh’s Cirque de Vol. Last Saturday, on a perfect night under the stars in Durham’s Central Park, the...

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Theater Review: PlayMakers' My Fair Lady Fleshes Out Edwardian Culture and Cuts Against the Romanticism of the Songs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 1:47 PM

My Fair Lady ★★★★ Through April 29 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill Education changes everything. That’s one of the reasons George Bernard Shaw’s twist on the Pygmalion tale, adapted as the musical My Fair Lady at PlayMakers Repertory Company, could be something of a tender subject in a region where the transformative powers of learning have long been championed. It is widely held here that, through scholarship, people can transcend the limitations of culture, economics, class, and gender. And that statement is true—at least, insofar as it goes. But for many, transcending the limits of their native culture involves the painful...

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Theater Review: The Harrowing Stories of Global Female Activists Dramatized in Seven: A Documentary Play

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 2:30 PM

Seven: A Documentary Play ★★★ ½ Through April 6 Sonorous Road Theater, Raleigh Works like Seven: A Documentary Play sometimes experience difficulty attracting audiences, not despite their worthy subject matter but because of it. The 2007 project, commissioned by the Washington-based international organization Vital Voices Global Partnership, tasked a septet of playwrights, including MacArthur Foundation "Genius" grant-winner Anna Deavere Smith, to interview and dramatize the harrowing stories of seven notable women who have labored in recent decades to improve the living conditions of women in Africa, Central America, Europe, and Southeast, Central, and Western Asia. That description, in itself,...

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Theater Review: Echoes of Tennessee Williams in Bartlett Theater's Production of Lynn Nottage's Crumbs From the Table of Joy

Posted By on Sat, Mar 11, 2017 at 11:58 AM

Crumbs From the Table of Joy★★★ ½ Through March 12 Bartlett Theater at PSI Theatre, Durham An enigmatic narrator is telling a theater audience a poetic but fraught coming-of-age story, looking back at a distant adolescence in a dingy city tenement. In this memory play, the world has outflanked a family of rural Southern transplants and a parent hopelessly trapped in outdated folkways and superstitions. Though excursions to the movies provide them with temporary sensations of liberation, the walls have been closing in, and the elder’s constrictive rules and dead-end plans will never accommodate the narrator's need to learn, create, and...

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Theater Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Lights Up the Mathematics of the Mind

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 10:55 AM

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ★★★★ Through Feb. 26 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham Artists know that embracing restrictions can spark creativity. A visual artist who limits herself to variations on a certain hue or a composer who drastically narrows his choices in instrumentation accepts those constraints in order to explore the possibilities within them. British author Mark Haddon accepted some profound constraints when he wrote his 2003 novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, before Simon Stephens's stage adaptation went to London's West End, Broadway, and the touring National Theatre production currently running at DPAC....

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Theater Review: A Colony of Broken People Explore Imagination, Sex, Anesthesia, Detox, and Reinvention in The Night Alive

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 4:06 PM

The Night Alive★★★★ Through Feb. 25 North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, Raleigh It can be a good thing when a set triggers flashbacks before a show begins. Prior to the first light cue in Honest Pint Theatre’s The Night Alive, designer Thomas Mauney’s squalid little flat took me back to the Hotel New Hampshire. No, not the edifice in the famous John Irving novel, but the crash pad of preference to which my friends gave the same name in my undergrad days. The random decor, rundown furniture, and slovenly housekeeping was similar, down to the black garbage bags holding...

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Nice write up. Love the twists and turns and I hardily agree with the ultimate statement (and Camus since I …

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She made me a peanut butter and banana sandwichwithout bread. Now that's art.

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I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

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Nice write up. Love the twists and turns and I hardily agree with the ultimate statement (and Camus since I …

by Perry on As the Durham Bulls Enter the Playoffs, We Wonder: What Exactly Is the Value of a Minor-League Championship? (Arts)

Just saw this last night. Did Rubin say that being around the Avetts would make life "matter" or just that …

by Drew Rhys on Full Frame: An Avetts Agnostic Finds Some Faith in May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Arts)

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