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Friday, June 22, 2018

Theater Review: One of Theater's Great Sacrificial Characters Strikes Back in Iphigenia in Splott

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 at 3:31 PM

Iphigenia in Splott ★★★★½ Through Saturday, Jun. 23 Burning Coal Theatre, Raleigh Iphigenia is one of the greatest sacrificial characters in Greek mythology. Splott, however, is a rundown section of Cardiff, Wales, best known to locals as the place where a library, swimming pool, doctor’s office, and other amenities used to be—before government funding cuts. “They cut everything we need to make a life,” a chronic, salty-tongued young alcoholic, purposefully named Effie, tells us in  playwright Gary Owen’s harrowing, challenging one-person show. As in the ancient texts, a soldier will cruelly betray this unlikely Iphigenia. She will also be repeatedly...

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Theater Review: Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's Songs Can't Quite Shine Through a Patchy Production of Spring Awakening

Posted By on Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 4:30 PM

Spring Awakening★★½ Through Sunday, June 17 North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, Raleigh Spring Awakening, Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik’s triple Tony-winning 2007 musical, is set in Germany a century ago, when public education about contraception was criminalized. Generations of teenage boys and girls, like the ones depicted in the musical, learned by trial and error—and lived and died by the consequences. But if the musical is about the tragic outcomes of adolescent children not learning survival skills about human sexuality, then this too-minimal NRACT production suffers because its young actors haven’t fully learned basic musical-theater survival skills, including vocal...

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Theater Review: Not Every Forty-Year-Old Thriller Still Elicits Gasps Like Deathtrap

Posted By on Thu, Jun 7, 2018 at 9:01 AM

Deathtrap★★★★ Through Sunday, June 10 NCSU’s Titmus Theatre, Raleigh To anyone considering a relationship with a wordsmith, a word of warning, from experience: Writers don’t fight—at least, not in any conventional sense. Instead, they just … rewrite. I went from romantic lead to episodic supporting character in one distractible young author’s life while I was out buying groceries. Then there was the college-town scribe who decided my views—and face—needed a bit more editing, with his fists. So everyone surrounding Deathtrap’s central character, a playwright named Sidney Bruhl, has good reason to be wary. By the end of Ira Levin’s devious...

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Theater Review: Some Theater Is Timeless, but Chamber Musical Daddy Long Legs Can't Shake the Twentieth Century

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 1:35 PM

Daddy Long Legs ★★½ Through, Sunday May 27 Kennedy Theatre, Raleigh The chamber musical Daddy Long Legs tries so hard to join us in the twenty-first century. In the book by John Caird (the original director of the mega-musical Les Misérables) and the lyrics by Paul Gordon, two characters strain against the societal conventions of the first decade of the twentieth century. Jerusha Abbott (played by a luminous Hilary Maiberger for Theatre Raleigh) is the oldest ward of the John Grier Home, a lovely, lifeless orphanage, but her potentially permanent position is changed when Jervis Pendleton, a wealthy young...

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Theater Review: Francesca Ferrari Captures a Rock Icon's Reckless Conviction in A Night with Janis Joplin

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 2:57 PM

A Night with Janis Joplin ★★★★ Through Sunday, May 20 Fletcher Opera Theater, Raleigh It’s the matter-of-fact delivery that makes the line so devastating. “People like their blues singers miserable,” Janis Joplin says. “People like their blues singers to die.” Boom. All the light and air go out of the room as designer Ryan O’Gara silhouettes the vulnerable rock star in a single cold, white spotlight. There are other moments that qualify NC Theatre’s production of A Night with Janis Joplin as something of a musical séance, at least when Francesca Ferrari is at the helm as the title character....

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Theater Review: NRACT's Peter and the Starcatcher Has the Line Item Often Left Out of Production Budgets: Imagination

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 10:30 AM

Peter and the Starcatcher★★★★ Through Sunday, May 6 North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, Raleigh Sometimes the cheapest theatrical effects have the greatest charm. I remember how an overhead projector, a cake of shoe polish, and a stick once replaced the digital projector and graphics software we couldn’t get for a college production. Voila! Magic writing on the wall for about $1.98, and a reminder that you don’t always need five, four, or even three figures to pull off a show. The line item most often left out of production budgets is for imagination. That’s hardly in short supply...

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Theater Review: Shakespeare Speaks to Every Age but Sometimes Mumbles When He's Drunk

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2018 at 4:03 PM

ShakesBEER II: The Bard Strikes Back★★★ Through Thursday, May 3 Various venues, Triangle-wide Shakespeare speaks to every age. Sometimes, though, he mumbles when he’s drunk. That’s one takeaway from Bare Theatre's ShakesBEER II, a new comic collection of Shakespearean souses that’s making the rounds at local bars through this Thursday. (We saw it at Mystery Brewing Co. in Hillsborough; the remaining shows are at Durham's Ponysaurus on May 2 and Raleigh’s Imurj on May 3.) As with the show’s first incarnation, adaptor Chuck Keith, director Dustin Britt, and a winning quartet of game young actors filter what performer Glenn Greggs...

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Theater Review: Pequod Productions' No Exit Is a Problematic but Promising Attempt at an Existential Classic

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2018 at 9:35 AM

No Exit★★½ Through Sunday, March 25 Page-Walker Arts and History Center, Cary Minds great and small have debated the concept of Hell for millennia. Christian fundamentalists think it’s stoked with fire and brimstone; Dante believed it is frozen in the middle. George Bernard Shaw said it’s full of amateur musicians. Nobel laureate Jean-Paul Sartre added his now-famous insight, “Hell is other people,” in No Exit, the groundbreaking existential drama he wrote during the French occupation in 1944. Sartre’s dictum is no mere statement of distaste, as it’s often misinterpreted. For him, the basic fact that others exist demands human...

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Theater Review: Even After a Recent Revision, EverScape Playwright Allan Maule's Framing the Shot Still Feels Like Early Work

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2018 at 2:52 PM

Framing the Shot ★★★ Through March 25 Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh Almost a decade before he wrote EverScape, his breakout play about online-gaming culture, which won accolades at the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival, Allan Maule wrote and staged three-person comedy Framing the Shot for his master’s thesis at UNC-Chapel Hill. But even after an upgrade that flips the genders of the two main characters for this Sonorous Road production, it still feels like an earlier, less-developed work. In Framing the Shot, a Chicago glassworker named Terry bursts into his neighbor Jacob’s apartment with a renewed lust for...

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Theater Review: Some Vocal Problems Aside, Fats Waller-Based Musical Ain't Misbehavin' Left Us Humming

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2018 at 1:35 PM

Ain’t Misbehavin’ ★★★ Through March 25 North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre, Raleigh As is discussed in our article on the Bull City Black Theatre Festival (see tomorrow's issue), the Triangle's African-American stage artists have repeatedly demonstrated a bench deep enough to fill multiple iterations of works by August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry—but the scarcity of such roles still leaves many of them benched. Stepping out of her usual role as a lighting designer and into the director’s chair, Liz Grimes Droessler attempts to underline that fact—and provide twice as many African-American actors valuable stage time—by double-casting this North...

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

DPAC Announces Dates for Hamilton and the Rest of the 2018-19 SunTrust Broadway Season

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 1:11 PM

In our recent 28 Reasons We Love the Triangle Right Now feature, we wrote a little rap—a parody of “My Shot”—about our frustration over not knowing when we'll finally get to see the Broadway smash Hamilton. (We're so sorry.) Well, rap and you shall receive, we guess: shortly thereafter, the Durham Performing Arts Center announced the dates of its 2018-19 SunTrust Broadway season, which is headlined by Hamilton. The season, branded “New York, New York,” features eight current or recent direct-from-Broadway hits, plus a return of The Book of Mormon. You’ll finally get to see Hamilton November 6 through December 2—if...

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Theater Review: At a Time When a Small Minority of Architects Are Women, What We're Up Against Is No Mere Period Piece

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 11:20 AM

What We’re Up Against ★★★★ Through Sunday, Jan. 28 Peace University’s Leggett Theatre, Raleigh You could tell the women in the audience had heard these rationalizations and runarounds before. One snorted audibly as Stu Wilson, the sexist managing architect at a prominent design firm, pontificated on women's place in his field at the outset of Theresa Rebeck’s potent office drama, What We’re Up Against. Holding court with a glass of scotch in one hand, Stu briefed his underling, Ben, on why he was denying Eliza, a bright young hire, any chance of doing meaningful work after five months on the...

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Theater Review: Bare Theatre Breaks Out Stronger Stuff for Its Second Round of Drunken Shakespeare in Local Taverns

Posted By on Wed, Dec 13, 2017 at 2:26 PM

ShakesBEER 2.0: The Bard Strikes Back★★★½ Through Friday, Dec. 22 Various locations, Triangle-wide Now we know: Macbeth’s porter was off by one in his famous list. Drunkenness, the topic of his comic monologue in the Scottish Play’s second act, provokes five things, not four: nose-painting, sleep, urine, lechery—and merriment. The proof is abundant in Bare Theatre’s ShakesBeer 2.0, a rewarding forty-five-minute revue of Shakespearean sots, currently in the midst of a month-long crawl through nine (count ‘em!) regional drinking establishments. (We saw it at Zog's in Chapel Hill.) With considerable poise and boozy bonhomie, four new actors, led by director...

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Theater Review: It's an Awkward Time for a Gypsy Revival, but NC Theatre's Production Doesn't Let Us or Its Characters Off the Hook

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 5:02 PM

Gypsy★★★★ Through Sunday, Nov. 19 Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh It’s an awkward time for a revival of Gypsy, biggest of the big-time classic Broadway musicals. After the recent death of Hugh Hefner, our culture has been re-reexamining the social politics of the skin trade, including sex work, pornography, and erotic dancing, the famous occupation of the musical’s subject: Louise Hovick, better known to the world as Gypsy Rose Lee. A seemingly endless tide of sexual harassment allegations against public figures have complicated those deliberations even further. Arthur Laurents’s backstage script skirts these issues during the first act as it relates...

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Theater Review: One Work Clearly Stands Out in Cary Playwrights Forum's Annual Romp Through Short Plays Set and Performed in Bars

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 3:40 PM

Bar Plays 3.0★★ Closing Thursday, Nov. 16 Fortnight Brewing, Cary If you think ten-minute plays are the kiddie pool or the junior division of theater, think again. It’s hard enough for a playwright, a director, and actors to introduce and develop vivid characters, place them in a novel situation, support them with a robust backstory, and authentically convey the truth of changing lives or cultures in two full acts. Condensing all that activity to fit in a tenth of that time requires ruthless editing, extreme economy of expression, and unwavering focus from directors and actors in each of their six...

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Theater Review: Don't Let the Period Fool You. Chekhov Update Life Sucks. Is Relentlessly Interrogative.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 8:45 AM

Life Sucks. ★★★★½ Through Nov. 11 Manbites Dog Theater, Durham The period in the name of Manbites Dog Theater’s current show, Life Sucks., is a typographical oddity (and an annoyance for writers and editors) that turns the play’s title a declarative statement. But that’s misleading, because Aaron Posner’s self-aware, contemporary update of Anton Chekhov, who is coyly listed in the “Special Thanks” section of the playbill, is relentlessly interrogative. Five of the seven characters in this lively, freewheeling adaptation of Uncle Vanya seem to be constantly, anxiously questioning one another and themselves, usually over whether their own lives suck as...

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Theater Review: The "Lavender Scare" Is Brought to Life with Suspense and Nuance in Perfect Arrangement

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 10:23 AM

Perfect Arrangement ★★★★ Through Nov. 12 Raleigh Little Theatre, Raleigh As Perfect Arrangement begins, designer Jeannine Borzello’s smart, sophisticated 1950s living-room set doesn’t look like a bunker. But, under Patrick Torres’s nuanced direction, the walls start closing in on gay couple Bob and Jim and lesbian couple Millie and Norma well before the end of Topher Payne’s enigmatic script. It's the spring of 1950. In adjoining townhouses where two supposedly heterosexual married couples can actually live with their partners in secret, Bob has created a shelter to protect his ambitions for advancement at the State Department. But as the government, goaded...

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Theater Review: PlayMakers' Sense and Sensibility Breathes Vibrant New Life into a Jane Austen Classic

Posted By on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 at 2:38 PM

Sense and Sensibility★★★★ Through Nov. 5 PlayMakers Repertory Company, Chapel Hill I’ve always found celebrations linked to an artist’s death—productions last year, for instance, of Shakespeare and Cervantes—to be in questionable taste. I’ll concede, though, there’s more reason for it with Jane Austen, since her identity as the author of classic British novels including Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park was revealed only upon her death in 1817. Austen’s been having a moment this fall with three regional productions of her works adapted for stage. The current one, Sense and Sensibility at PlayMakers Rep, is particularly a cause for celebration....

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Friday, October 20, 2017

North Carolina's Strengthened Indie-Professional Dance Community Puts Its Mark on the NC Dance Festival and Emergence

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 9:57 AM

The NC Dance Festival The Rickhouse, Durham October 12, 2017 Emergence PSI Theatre, Durham Arts Council October 14, 2017 In its first ever self-produced showcase in Durham, the NC Dance Festival took several legitimate steps toward embracing a growing community of independent, professional dance artists from across the state, a population it hasn’t always known what to do with. But with only sixty people in attendance—a fraction of the audiences Durham Independent Dance Artists and others have summoned in recent years—few witnesses observed these needed innovations on a drizzly Thursday night. Terpsichorean in-jokes rippled through Welcome, Rachel Barker’s sharp-toothed tribute...

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Theater Review: Looking for a Laser Show? Tom Stoppard's Pink Floyd-Derived Darkside Is Not That Kind of Trip.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 6:35 AM

Darkside ★★★ Through Sunday, Oct. 29 Burning Coal Theatre Company, Raleigh Let’s get the consumer advisory out of the way. If you’re looking for a rock-and-blues bliss-out after some pre-show doobage, Brit Floyd, the Pink Floyd tribute band, will be in Charlotte next month. (Enjoy the light show.) For all its achievements and difficulties, Burning Coal’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Darkside, a work that, unlike The Wizard of Oz, was intentionally crafted to sync up with Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, is not that kind of trip. At first, there is an air of playfulness in central character...

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Theater Review: For an Early-Nineties Kid, The Little Mermaid Musical Is Virtually Review-Proof

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 5:42 PM

The Little Mermaid ★★★ (if you aren’t nostalgic for the movie) | ALL THE STARS!!! (if you are) Through Sunday, Oct. 22 Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham “The Mermaid Affair.” That’s what my companion and I, just a pair of thirty-eighters, codenamed (with mock-mock embarrassment) our excursion to DPAC to bask in the stage musical of a Disney movie so deeply etched on our early-nineties formative years as to be virtually unreviewable. You know the story, right? Mermaid seeks love on land, trades voice to witch for legs, calamity and redemption ensue? Let's swim on. I can sort of rate the...

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Theater Review: The South Is Hard to Hear in the Opera Version of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain

Posted By on Sun, Oct 1, 2017 at 10:41 AM

Cold Mountain★★½ Thursday, Sep. 28, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, 2 p.m. UNC’s Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill It’s a first principle of adaptation: the main reason to translate an artwork into another medium is to explore it more fully, to draw out facets its first form could not. Ultimately, an adaptation stands or falls on two points: how it enhances our experience of the work that inspired it, and how faithful it is to that work. These criteria leave us with mixed thoughts on Cold Mountain, composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Gene Scheer’s operatic adaptation of Charles Frazier’s best-selling novel,...

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Theater Review: At Sonorous Road, Sandi Toksvig's Silver Lining Is a Needed but Shaky Showcase for Older Female Actors

Posted By on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 at 3:42 PM

Silver Lining★★½ Through Sunday, Oct. 1 Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh True confession: it’s still a thrill when a new theater company hangs out its shingle, and the fewer names I recognize on a press release or playbill, the greater my curiosity is. That was particularly true of Peony Productions and its first project, the dark comedy Silver Lining at Sonorous Road. Decades before the Women’s Theatre Festival came to the Triangle, women here were having difficulty finding meaningful roles outside of the constricting bandwidth of ingénue, femme fatale, or loving wife; past a certain age, they basically went missing on our stages....

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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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